It’s your first donor meeting. You’re excited and passionate, but terrified. How do you get this person to like you and your message enough to contribute to your cause? How do you “make the sell”?
Meeting donors in person is a fundamental part of the fundraising process. It can be scary, but we can help to guide you through the process to make you comfortable and confident when meeting donors face-to-face.
Before the meeting, make sure you’re prepared. Do some research about the donor and try to predict the type of questions the donor might ask. Having the information readily available will make you seem more trustworthy and organized. Also avoid jargon and industry-specific language so your message is clear and easy to understand. Most people aren’t very willing to give their money away if they don’t know where it’s going. Making sure you are transparent with where the donation will be used can go a long way in establishing a beneficial relationship with your donors.
First impressions are incredibly important. Many people make conclusions about others within a second of meeting them. While these conclusions may not be entirely accurate, they definitely stick. So when you show up for the meeting, treat it like a job interview. Don’t be late, dress appropriately, have a friendly attitude and greet them with a firm handshake and a smile.
Always remember to focus the conversation on the cause and the donor—never yourself. You should provide a brief overview of your organization and its programs, but then focus primarily on the individual in front of you. Talk about their accomplishments, goals and how their personal or company values coincide with yours. Your initial meeting my end up being more of a listening, rather than selling, session. Let your donor talk to you about where your organization fits into their lives and what is driving their support.
When you meet donors face-to-face, you’re already starting to build a relationship. No one wants to be treated as a means to an end, or simply just a bag of money to take from. Establish the relationship in a way that makes them feel like they could be an active and significant stakeholder in your organization.
A good way to make the donors feel valued is simply to listen. Nod along and make eye contact when they’re talking. Ask clarifying follow-up questions and remember specific details of the conversation to bring up later. Each of these will help to create constructive conversations in the future to lead towards campaign discussions, while showing that you value their interest in your cause.
After the meeting, you should follow up with a personal email, a phone call or some other form of recognition. This will serve as a little something to show that they made an impact on you. The first meeting with a donor may not inspire a donation right away, but the foundation you’ve established through your first meeting can be used to build upon and grow.