Every fundraiser knows that building relationships of trust and respect with donors is one of the most important parts of the job. While meeting with every donor in person would be ideal, budget and time constraints can make doing so impossible. Instead, make a prioritized list of donors you think you will be able to visit this year, and then plan to make the most of each interaction. Here’s how.
1. Think it through.
Do your homework by studying notes from previous visits and conversations, and spend some time envisioning your upcoming meeting. Determine a best possible outcome (the donor says yes to gift) and the least acceptable outcome (the donor indicates little or no interest in the gift). Prepare your response to each.
2. Take someone with you.
Consider bringing another fundraiser, volunteer or board member along for the visit, perhaps someone of a different gender or generation. Doing so can be a great opportunity to benefit from a different perspective as well as break down silos inside your organization by working together.
3. Listen, listen, listen.
This is the most important step. Ask open-ended questions and then let donors tell you their stories. As they share why they give and what motivates them, listen. You will learn what you need to know to best match your organization’s needs to your donors’ passions.
4. Give examples.
Once you have a good grasp of the donor’s interests, share a story about one or two similar donors and the impact their gifts have had on your organization. Donors want to know their gifts matter and they’re not alone in considering these types of gifts.
5. Coordinate with others.
Make sure your fundraising departments are communicating with each other so multiple people aren’t asking the same donors for gifts at the same time. That way you can avoid donor fatigue and ensure donors are being asked for the appropriate gifts at the appropriate times in their lives. To manage this strategy, having the ages of your donors and other information appended to your donor files is essential. Sharpe Group’s Donor Data Enhancement services can help.
6. Keep it simple.
Aim to educate your donors about different ways to make gifts, but don’t give them so much information that they feel overwhelmed. When talking with donors, use phrases such as “life-income plan” and “remainder designation” instead of “CRTs,” “CLTs” or other jargon specific to our field.
After the call, discuss with others who were involved what went well and how you might improve your next visit. Make sure appropriate entries are made in your prospect management system and look ahead to plan your next steps. Are there other people who might help you bring a proposed gift to fruition? Typically, a donor will rely on one advisor; their support can be essential.
The donor visit is certainly one of the most important elements in any successful program. These steps can help you develop a procedure that works well for you and your organization. For more information, click here. ■