Securing the Face-to-Face Visit With a Donor
I was recently consulting with a nonprofit that was in the middle of a campaign to raise funds. I needed to talk to volunteers about securing face-to-face appointments with prospective donors. These prospects were prior donors, not cold prospects. However, they were donors that had never been in a prior face-to-face scenario with a volunteer or staff member.
These volunteers were either extremely uncomfortable or scared, not only to seek a face-to-face meeting but to call the prospective donors on the phone for a visit. You can easily relate to what I am saying. I am convinced that attempting to secure a face-to-face meeting is one of the hardest things a development professional can do. People have told me seeking a first meeting with a prospect is harder than speaking in public.
Amy Eisenstein, who has written extensively on this topic, notes that a one-to-one visit is about fostering the relationship. It is much easier to visit with someone who has a connection to your institution through a staff, board or volunteer link. If you need to meet with someone you do not know, be ready to manage objections on the phone. Tell the person you want to meet that the primary purpose of the proposed meeting is to seek advice.
Jerold Panas, in his book, “Asking: A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers and Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift,” said securing the appointment means you are 85% of the way to securing the next gift. People are getting comfortable with virtual friendships via social media or email. Others are now more comfortable texting. The key is securing the face-to-face visit.
Send a letter to someone to ask for a visit. Practice making the phone call to secure the first meeting with the prospect. Call either late in the morning or during the afternoon Monday through Thursday. Stand up while you are calling and smile. Keep the call brief and ask for no more than a 30-minute meeting. Seek a date for the meeting and follow up with a letter. Practice making calls to secure meetings to build confidence.
Potential prospects may try to quickly say no to a visit or make a lower-level gift amount over the phone. Place your speaking points in front of you so you can be ready to manage situations as they occur. When calling for the visit, thank the donor for their past gifts, focus on the donor and offer to meet them at a convenient place.
If you cannot reach a donor on the phone, be creative by using email, text and social media to keep the conversation going. Eisenstein suggests a pre-call letter or just a phone call. Tell the prospect that you are on a listening tour and the visit is not about asking for a gift. You want to learn about why they support the organization and what they think about the nonprofit. You want their advice about upcoming organizational projects.
Claire Axelrad also has provided a variety of secrets you need to secure a major donor meeting. She encourages exploring a variety of approaches to obtain face-to-face meetings and see what works for you.
Her pre-call tips are as follows:
- Remember, you are arranging a visit.
- Ask the prospect if they have time for your call.
- Plan to first ask for advice.
- Tell them you are contacting them to build a relationship and seek their input.
- Tell them why you are calling after you thank them for their past support.
- Be clear about your intention to seek advice and explore a giving opportunity.
- Do not talk about specific dollar amounts on the phone.
- Offer choices for timing of the visit.
- Smile, stand up and walk around on the call.
When you secure a face-to-face first visit with a prospect, focus on stewardship and ministry. The goal is to build a long-term relationship and seek positive motivation. Have questions in mind when speaking with a prospect. Study these questions as it is all about the prospect and not about you or your nonprofit. Ask the prospect about their story.
- Why were you interested in supporting our nonprofit?
- Can you tell me about your family and what is your personal philosophy of life?
- When you think about the mission of our organization, what comes to your mind first?
- What do you love most about our organization and what would you like to see changed or improved?
- What do you believe are the most pressing community needs?
Make sure you are prepared for the first face-to-face meeting with the prospect with interesting questions and next steps in mind!
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.