Treat Your First Meeting Like a First Date!
It is critical that you, in a way, become Barbara Walters. Think about what questions you can ask or should ask when the meeting begins. Listen and start the meeting with softball questions about general personal topics. Think about items that might engage the interest of the party you are speaking to at the first moments of the meeting. You might get lucky and strike a chord or theme for the visit that you both will remember going forward.
If at all possible, do homework on the person you are meeting in advance. Has this person been a prior donor, volunteer, board member? Does he have any link or the organization? In some cases I find out the person I am meeting has a friend or relative with prior experience with my organization. Determine why the person across the desk might be interested in meeting with you. The ultimate goal is to leave this meeting with a win-win scenario for both parties. Your goal is to seek a second "date" if at all possible.
At this point it must be pointed out that typically the date itself will be easier than securing the appointment. More than one colleague has called me seeking advice on how to obtain the appointment because of fear of rejection at this step in the process. I have found that asking for a 30-minute meet-and-greet visit increases chances for success. The person you are attempting to visit knows there is a brief, finite time and the meeting is non-threatening. You will not be asking for anything except her attention to learn more about you and your organization.
A suggestion is to break the first meeting time frame into thirds. The first third is the ice breaker, the second third is education, and the final third is seeking mutual possibilities. As the meeting ends, determine if another meeting is warranted to further the relationship.
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.