Posted March 1st, 1999

Five Tips for a Successful Donor Visit

1. Listen to your donor. This may sound like an obvious suggestion, but it is one that successful gift planners stress time and time again. Instead of focusing on “selling” your organization to a donor during a visit, let the donor tell you what is important to him or her. Listen carefully for hints about what really interests the donor and then you will be able to offer ideas and information that may be appealing.

2. Determine a donor’s motivations. As you listen to a donor talk about potential gifts, try to ascertain the donor’s deeper charitable motivations. Does the donor want to pay tribute to a special loved one who has recently passed away? Or would the donor like to leave a lasting legacy by having a building or a program named for him or her? Look for what will often be an emotional impetus behind your donor’s interest in making a gift and then proceed to recommend giving opportunities that are appropriate in light of his or her wishes.

3. Treat the donor with sensitivity. As you meet with a donor interested in making a major or planned gift to your organization, you will often learn much about his or her assets and personal financial history. Consider this as extremely private information and even where there are obviously tremendous resources, never push a donor to give more than he or she is comfortable giving. It is not unusual for donors to give more than was initially planned because of a gift planner’s sensitivity and unaggressive approach to the gift planning process.

4. Involve the donor’s advisors. If one of the donor’s professional advisors accompanies the donor, engage the advisor in the conversation. It is never too early to begin cultivating a good relationship with the advisor. After all, you may find yourself coordinating a planned gift with this donor and advisor in the future, so establishing good relations and trust with the donor’s advisor from the beginning could help smooth the way for completion of the gift.

5. Record your impressions quickly. It is important to write down your thoughts about the meeting as soon as possible. It is not necessary for you to take detailed notes during the meeting and doing so, in fact, may make a donor feel uncomfortable and could inhibit your ability to listen effectively. However, as soon as you can after the meeting, jot down any important facts or information that you discovered during your discussion and put it the donor’s file. Such information may be invaluable in the future if and when the donor decides to complete a gift to your organization.

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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