Fundraising Success Begins With Securing the First Appointment
When you immerse yourself into the fundraising world, you play many roles, including face-to-face solicitations and personal engagement, which many people fear. For many, fundraising will eventually be their chosen profession. For others, the world of volunteerism will appeal to them. Still, others will dabble in fundraising by identifying prospects, rating prospects, screening prospects or going on calls with others to ask for gifts. Even long-term professionals will attest that the first meeting with an unknown prospect or donor can be downright scary.
You do not know what to expect, and you are in a reactive mode. Can you imagine what untrained volunteers think about when contacting a stranger for a meeting? In fact, for many, trying to secure a visit with a prospect is harder than the actual meeting with them. Your job as a nonprofit professional is to minimize the fear and stress of securing the first visit through proper training techniques and coaching. If you take the personal emotion out of it and think about the fact you represent an institution, you are on the way to securing a visit success.
Gail Perry discusses a time she calls the moment of truth. What happens when you pick up the phone or shoot off an email? You just don’t know how your prospect will respond to your request for a meeting. There are ways to pique a prospect’s interest and make them inclined to say yes. These include telling the person you are contacting you are looking for an advice visit, sending a personal letter via mail, asking your donor to tell you their story, meeting your donor at an event, plus dropping off a thank-you gift for their past support.
Claire Axelrad notes that you are 85% of the way to securing a gift if you can get your prospect to agree to a visit. People screen phone calls, do not answer emails and are busy.
Her specific tips for getting in the door are as follows:
- Remember you are not setting an appointment, but arranging a visit.
- Start by asking your prospect if he or she has time for your call.
- Plan to first ask for advice.
- Don’t plan to ask if you can drop by to tell them what your organization is doing.
- Tell your prospect why you are calling.
- Be clear about your intention to talk about philanthropy.
- Do not talk about specific dollar amounts yet.
- Offer choices for timing of the visit.
- Smile, stand up and walk around.
The Muse states whether you are new to the nonprofit game or just haven’t worked with a major donor before, here are a few tips for what to do in your first dealings with a new prospect. Seek to get a good introduction, know your prospect by doing research, know what you want to happen in the first meeting, bring a buddy with you, send a thank-you email within 24 hours of the first meeting and set yourself up for a second meeting.
Amy Einstein indicates the first step to cultivating a productive relationship with your prospective donor is a one-on-one meeting. She encourages those wanting a meeting to be persistent without being a pest, request a meeting by noting you are on a listening tour and the visit is not about money, and be prepared for objections concerning a meeting. Make a list of possible objections and prepare push-back statements. Always make your donor feel good. Tell them the meeting is to get to know them better and ask their advice about upcoming projects.
If you finally secure the appointment, according to the Causeview, the first meeting should start to build a deep trusting relationship and promote takeaways for both parties relating to the cause.
- Get personal, and chat about casual and personal matters.
- Share your organization’s impact.
- Share your organization’s challenges with limited resources.
- Explain the options for giving.
- Talk about personal benefits that giving might bring.
- Make an “ask” based upon the response you are getting.
Ironically, as I was writing this short article, I needed to take time out for a prospective donor visit. This is called practice what you are preaching. After four months of calling and waiting, a donor to our organization agreed to a visit. He wanted to meet, but could not previously find the time to meet. The 90-minute visit incorporated getting to know the prospect, asking about his background and interest, and determining why he started giving to my organization.
I also provided a review of new organizational priorities, while seeking advice and guidance from him, plus determining his level of interest in making a major gift. A specific ask was not made this visit on purpose. He left with organizational materials and my promise to send him additional information on areas of interest brought up in the meeting. I strongly encouraged that he and his wife take a tour of the facility he was most interested in visiting. He left the door open to a second meeting. I will immediately send materials to him then call him for a facility tour within two weeks. The visit was very positive, and the donor prospect asked many questions and enjoyed the engagement. He also mentioned the intense competition between nonprofits for donations.
Fundraising success begins with securing the first appointment. My donor prospect now knows my face, passion for the cause and willingness to be of service to him. It is all about relationships and having the chance to showcase the cause and organizational mission. You cannot get a hit unless you get up to bat. Practice securing the first appointment. As Claire gladly notes, when you secure the face-to-face appointment, you are 85% on your way to securing a gift. I will take those odds every day of the week!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.