You Need 1:1 Visits with Your Donors
How many of us over time develop likes and dislikes about the things we do in our jobs? Some of us love the thrill of managing the needs of others. Some love the political battles of pushing a program forward. Many enjoy the pursuit of a boss's favor. The likes and dislikes are like a rainbow of colors. I enjoy certain colors but not all colors. If you are lucky, you have a large enough staff to delegate the least enjoyable tasks to them. For most of us, we must endure the four-hour finance meeting and similar meetings that take away precious time from the field of prospect and donor engagement. Since I do not have a large engagement staff and only limited time, I must pick and choose which prospect and donor visits to engage. When I have a 1:1 donor visit, I also must be very strategic with the donor's time based upon the scenario of engagement I employ.
One example of a 1:1 donor engagement is in a recent lunch I had with the donor. It took about three months to schedule this lunch, due to his heavy travel plans. One year earlier, we had lunch at a certain location near his home. I suggested the same location due to his busy schedule. By the way, that lunch, while not focused on a direct solicitation, led to an increased gift last year by the donor. We decided to meet at noon. I knew we had only one hour to meet. In my mind, I broke down the hour by quarters. As a former football player, you'll have to excuse me for thinking in athletic terms. The breakdown of my strategy was as follows:
The first quarter of the lunch, which consisted of 15 minutes, was to reacquaint ourselves on a personal scale. I wanted to know about his work, travel plans, social engagements and his children's school activities. His wife also works and could not attend the lunch. That said, we talked about her work. He told me about his alma mater involvement and how that brings him joy. We talked about how he travels and where he travels. The point was just to get to know him better. He also talked about his father and how his father's work almost lead him down a different professional path. When you ask questions and listen, you gain so much credibility, as the donor senses you truly care about him as a person.
When we finished this discussion we moved seamlessly to the second quarter for 15 minutes. Since I had not met him in person for a year, I provided an oral overview of what our organization had accomplished in the past year with an emphasis on people helped as a result of his contributions.
The third quarter of the visit consisted of me showing him our annual report. I talked briefly about the report and then focused on what was ahead in the next six months. This time spent was the heart of our meeting. He asked a number of questions about where we were heading and seemed pleased in our direction. He did mention why he continued to support the organization at a high level, and I reinforced questions with solid answers. I had a genuine smile throughout the lunch. I truly care about this donor and he knows it. He also knows he is giving to the institution and our personal touch is important. I made sure he can trust our organization to continue to spend his gifts in a wise and prudent manner. He has a doctorate, and I loved his deep and probing questions.
It is now 12:45 p.m. and the wrap-up phase has begun. I asked him if he had any additional questions. I thanked both he and his wife for their support. I also noted that I hoped they would continue to give and increase their gift if possible. I want to point out the purpose of this 1:1 visit was cultivation and stewardship. There will be a future time for a larger ask when I bring in others with me on the visit. As part of your monthly schedule, make time for donor visits. You need these 1:1 donor visits. The feedback makes you feel good and sharpens your future presentations. If nothing else, these visits provide a beautiful break from another thrilling internal management meeting!
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 email@example.com or 317-224-1029.