26 Conversation Keys for Major-Donor Meetings
Every fundraiser knows that fundraising is really all about creating, building and nurturing relationships, and that is especially true for major gifts. In order to obtain a major gift, the major-gift officer must establish a trusted relationship with the donor, and the donor must have faith in the organization's mission.
There's no better way to establish and enrich a relationship with a major donor than through genuine, intelligent conversation. With that in mind, Richard Brown, a visiting clinical professor at New York University's George H. Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising, shared 26 conversation tips during his presentation, "Major Gifts: 15 Things You Absolutely Must Know," at the Association of Fundraising Professionals' Fundraising Day in New York last week.
Here is the quick list. Check back next week for more on this session.
- Talk about their kids, not yours.
- Avoid short answers.
- Never correct the other person.
- No matter how tired you are, never let it show. Make each person feel like he or she is your only meeting of the day.
- Observe the donor's body language and be conscious of yours.
- Measure your opinions, but show you know something.
- If speaking to more than one person, look at everyone.
- Speak at a moderate pace.
- Ask open-ended questions to elicit dialogue.
- Don't be afraid to talk politics, but keep strong opinions to yourself. You don't want to offend the donor.
- Smile, display enthusiasm and show life.
- Know your industry, and know something about the donor's industry.
- Be candid. Don't spin. Never gossip.
- Talk about your organization's finances, programs and plans.
- Spare the donor from talking about yourself unless asked.
- Stay focused on the donor in front of you, not the person with soap-opera good looks who just walked in.
- Keep interested, i.e., "That's fascinating. Tell me more."
- "I'm sorry, I don't understand that" shows you are paying attention.
- Jot down occasional notes to show that what the donor just told you is important.
- Be ready to discuss current events.
- Now and then, it's OK to show off that you read Dosteyevsky — show that you are an intelligent person.
- Unless the donor says he or she saw it, don't mention that you saw the latest blockbuster movie.
- Bring up topics that interest the donor.
- Eliminate "like," "oh my god," and "awesome."
- Remember why you are meeting in the first place.
- Above all else … make the donor feel important.