Welcome back to the Major Gifts Challenge! If you’re unfamiliar with the Challenge, check out the introductory video here.
It’s easier said than done. Yet, the first meeting is the foundation to cultivating a relationship that turns prospects into producers.
The first step to cultivating a productive relationship with your prospective donors is a one-on-one meeting. There’s no better way to get to know someone. Brushing shoulders at galas and working together on a committee simply doesn’t cultivate donors. You need to sit down with them and have a real one-on-one conversation.
You may be one of many fundraisers who’ve struggled or failed to get that first meetings with donors. Frustration leads to quitting. But, quitting never cultivates.
Be Persistent without Being a Pest
Getting a meeting isn’t always easy, but there are effective strategies.
The first step to raising major gifts is securing a meeting with your donors. You must be persistent without being a pest!
Pre-call letters or email are popular. The idea is to let prospects know you will be calling them about a meeting.
Honestly, it’s just as effective to pick up the phone and call. Most people don’t remember getting a pre-call letter, it’s an extra, unnecessary step. It’s not wrong to send out pre-call letters, but evaluate their effectiveness. Busy work isn’t cultivating work.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Requesting a Meeting
When calling for a meeting, here are some important do’s and don’ts. We’ll start with the don’ts.
- DON’T offer to tell them about your organization. That’s not the focus of this meeting.
- DON’T simply offer to thank them in person. While you might thank them for a previous gift, again, that’s not the purpose of this meeting.
- DO let them know you’re on a “listening tour.” Meaning you’re meeting with donors to learn why they give, what they love most and least about your organization, and what might motivate them to give more.
- DO reassure them this visit is not about money and you will not be asking for a gift at this time. This can make all the difference.
- DO be prepared for rejection. Most people won’t want to meet at first. I’ve rarely heard anyone answer the phone and be overjoyed you called … and say, “How nice, I was waiting for your call.”
Prepare for Objections to a Meeting
Knowing that your donor will likely object to a meeting, you’ll need to be persistent. It helps to be prepared for all of their possible objections, like:
- I already gave
- Why me?
- I have no time
- I’m not that interested
Next, come up with responses to each objection. For example:
I realize you’re busy, so I’ll make this as painless as possible. I’d be happy to have a short, 20 minute meeting and I would be happy to meet you at your home or office, at your convenience.
Yes, I know you already gave and we appreciate it so much. I want to make sure you know up front that I won’t be asking for a donation at this meeting. This meeting is for me to get to know you better, to learn why you give, and ask your advice about some of our upcoming projects.
I understand we may not be your top priority at this time. Regardless, I’d still love to meet with you because we’re doing a listening tour and you’ve been such a loyal donor. I know meeting with you would give me insight to why people like you do give to us and what we should be doing better.
With a little preparation and persistence, you’ll be getting your first meeting in no time.
Challenge Yourself Action Item
Step 1: Make a list of possible objections.
Prepare a list of every possible objection a donor might give for avoiding a meeting with you. I already mentioned a number of these, but see if you can come up with others that might be more relevant to your specific organization.
Step 2: Prepare push-back statements.
Write down anything you could say to push back on each of those objections. Always be polite and tactful, and it doesn’t hurt to make your donor feel special. After all, he or she is being singled out because of their immense generosity – so, make them feel good.
Going Further with Major Gifts
Want even more guidance on how to get a first meeting? In Mastering Major Gifts, I provide more details on how to cultivate your donors, including responses to objections to meeting. If you are ready to take the next step in raising major gifts, check out Mastering Major Gifts.
Act, Comment and Participate
Now it’s your turn to share your progress with the Major Gifts Challenge. What do you say to get meetings with donors? What challenges have you run into? How have you overcome them?
Let me know about your experiences with getting first meetings in the comments.