Building a nonprofit book of business

Building a nonprofit book of business is a lot like building any book of business -- you have to get yourself out there

Non-Profits & Charities


“You have to get yourself out there. You have to go to the conventions,” said longtime account executive William “Bill” Zester. “I have success when I drill down into a market,” he said. For instance, he said, if you have success writing a specific type of nonprofit organization or association try to go after others of its kind. “Let them know you are able to offer competitive programs, great prices, better coverage. Maybe have a testimonial to include from one of the accounts you have written. Then perhaps you will find success with similar accounts. So drilling down into a type of nonprofit always helps. You get to know them and their business operations and exposures. That is particularly effective for me,” he said.

One thing that tends to distinguish the nonprofit sector is that people in the sector talk to each other more than competing businesses do. “You will get good word of mouth if you are doing the right things for these people. Honesty and integrity are much appreciated and a willingness to take the time to explain insurance coverages to them makes a world of difference. Also, go to the conventions, show your face, develop a reputation and that will help with the next account and the one after that. For-profits are more guarded and don’t often have that kind of communication with their competitors, but thankfully nonprofits do.”

He said he goes to conferences in the arenas he wants to play in, but generally only in New Jersey rather than the national conventions. “Going to those, getting my name out, meeting my accounts, asking them for introductions--that works well for me.” He said the agency he works for is usually an exhibiter at these events.

Zester said “it is also an incestuous business, with people frequently moving from one nonprofit to another. If you have left a good impression with the former employee when they do leave,” he said, “they often call and provide an entrée to the new organization.” He said he also has success networking with accountants who work in the sector, sharing leads back and forth.

One thing he doesn’t do to build his book of business is serve on nonprofit boards. “Sometimes being on a board is a conflict of interest. If you are writing their insurance, you have a vested interest to keep yourself as their broker and maybe you can’t be objective and impartial. It’s not completely honest,” he said.

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