Make the Most of Your Next Major Gift Prospect Meeting
All fundraising intelligence roads lead to that first meeting with a prospect (or donor, if you are preparing for an annual check-in). Your team has identified a potential donor, researched their philanthropic “fit”, and cultivated the prospect’s interest in your organization. Now it’s time to meet face-to-face.
No matter if you’re a rookie or veteran fundraiser, and no matter if your ask is for $1000 or $10 million, a productive meeting is all about the fundamentals of effective communication: do your homework, be an engaged and effective listener, and maintain an ongoing post-meeting dialogue. Here are some tips and strategies to make the most out of your next meeting with a major gift prospect or donor. These ideas were inspired by a recent insightful webinar hosted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and sponsored by iWave.
Do Your Homework — Fundraising Intelligence
Think you know everything about your prospect’s wealth capacity, affinity, and propensity to give? If you use a fundraising intelligence platform, you probably have a good understanding of your prospect’s ability and interest to give to your cause. But what if things have changed since you completed your initial research? What if a board member handed a business card to you just now and said you have a meeting with Jane Doe tomorrow afternoon? It’s time for prospect research — stat!
Here are some indicators to look for as you compile your research:
- Relationships: Is this prospect known by someone at your organization, or are they anonymous to you? Perhaps they are associates of a current donor? This is where relationship data is your best friend.
- Internal Giving History: Has this prospect given to your organization before? When, how often, and for how long? Use this information to generate an RFM (recency-frequency-monetary) score to help guide your decision-making.
- External Giving History: Where else has this prospect donated? This could include other nonprofit charities, foundations, and even political contributions. Don’t forget to look for board memberships or volunteer records.
- Wealth Capacity: It’s critical to develop an accurate estimate of how much a prospect could theoretically contribute to your cause. Quote a number too high or too low, and you risk offending the prospect. You can learn about your prospect’s capacity by researching their real estate holdings, salary, public stock holdings, and high-net-worth indicators.
- General Personal Details: What do you know about the prospect’s career and current job title? Hobbies and interests? How about their family?
The key to a successful meeting is to eliminate as many unknowns as possible. If you’ve already done the background work on your prospect, consider these other ways to prepare for your upcoming meeting:
- Set Goals: Outline what you hope to accomplish in the meeting. Do you plan on simply getting to know each other, or is it time to present your gift ask? Let the prospect know your goals during your pre-meeting correspondence and as you open the meeting itself. When you’re both on the same page, the conversation can flow naturally.
- Determine Participants: Who will actually attend the meeting? For obvious reasons, it can’t be your whole team. If a board member or current donor knows the prospect personally, why not attend together? As a courtesy, be sure to let the prospect know who is coming to the meeting before you show up.
- Choose the Right Setting: A noisy family restaurant may not be the best choice for a first meeting. If it’s a lunch meeting, choose a quiet location you know has fast, professional service.
- Be On Time: As the saying goes, if you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re late! Plan ahead for any foreseeable delays. If you must reschedule (never advised, of course), be sure to let your prospect know as soon as possible. And when you arrive, be fully present and active in the conversation.
Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
When preparing for a meeting, put yourself in the prospect’s shoes. Consider their motivation. Why should they care about donating at all, let alone to your organization? If you’ve done your research, you may have an idea of the prospect’s philanthropic history and interests. But it’s always best to ask the prospect directly: What do they want out of this relationship?
Some questions to consider asking your prospect may include:
- Which causes do you care about?
- What do you know about my/our organization? What don’t you know, that I can answer for you? Does a particular area we focus on interest you more than others?
- Why are you interested in donating? Is it for religious reasons, to honor a friend or family member, or simply to give back to the community?
- Do you see a potential donation as an active investment, or fulfilling an altruistic goal?
Maintain the Momentum
The meeting is wrapping up. Thank the donor for their time, exchange business cards or contact information, and remember to pick up the tab! But even though the meeting is over, the work isn’t.
Be sure to send a follow-up email to keep the interest alive. Share stories of how previous donations have helped your organization in various ways. This is especially helpful if your prospect or donor sees their contribution as an “impact investment.” They want to know where that investment is going, why, and how it’s helped. By sharing this kind of information with someone, they will be more likely to make that first donation or continue donating well into the future.
Want to know some more tips for identifying, cultivating, and soliciting donors? Watch a recording of our webinar “Conversation Starters” with fundraising consultant Paul D’Alessandro. Contact our team to learn more about our fundraising software.
Want to see iWave in Action? Try the platform for free today!
About the author:Ryan McCarvill joined the iWave team in 2016. Ryan enjoys meeting and learning from nonprofit professionals, researching trends in the nonprofit community, and offering strategies for development teams to use iWave’s solutions to meet and exceed their fundraising goals.
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