How to Rock Your Next Donor Meeting

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The day has arrived. In a few hours you’ll be meeting one of your top major gift prospects for a tour of your organization. It’s taken a ton of coordination to get to this point. You’re feeling calm, prepared, and confident – you’re ready to show off your organization in its best possible light. 

What does it take to get to this calm, prepared and confident state?

Whether you’re meeting with a current or prospective donor, to ask for money or not, here are 6 steps you can take to ensure you rock your next donor meeting!

1.  Do Your Research 

Review your donor’s record in your database (if you have one). Examine the donor’s history of giving to your organization, the events they’ve attended, the specific programs they’ve shown interest in, who among your board members or other constituents they know. 

If you don’t find this information in your database you’ll want to do some legwork to gather it, so you can get educated about your donor. For newer prospects, do as much prospect research as you have time for. Also, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call a fellow donor, a board member or a volunteer who knows the person you’re meeting with to ask for advice.

2.  Practice Speaking, Practice Listening

Think through which facts, stories, successes and challenges you want to communicate to your donor. Draft a script—sometimes the process of synthesizing, organizing and editing  information is more valuable than the script itself. And be sure to practice your talking points OUT LOUD. You don’t need to memorize your script word-for-word but you want to be very comfortable with the material.

Build some dead air time (i.e. you are not talking) into your script. One of the most common mistakes fundraisers make in donor meetings is talking too much. Leave some space for the donor to look around, ask questions, and answer your questions (see below.)

3.  Come Up With Questions…and Ask Them!

Brainstorm some open-ended questions that you can ask your donor to engage and learn about them. Write these questions into your script, practice asking them, and then practice being quiet while your donor answers. This is harder than it sounds! 

You’re building a relationship with your donor so don’t make the conversation all about you and your organization. To get to know your donor and what motivates and inspires them, your questions will facilitate a fruitful conversation.

4.  Prepare Materials

As you prepare what you’re going to say, also prepare the materials you’ll use to say it. Maybe you’ll hand your donor an informational packet at the end of your tour. Perhaps you’ll talk through a short(!) presentation on your tablet or laptop. You might share a video (again, short is best) that shows the impact of your work and mission. Whenever technology is involved, triple check that all files, links, and downloads are working on-site before your donor arrives.

5.  Make a Game Plan With Others 

If other people will attend the meeting with you, make sure to talk with them beforehand and explain the purpose for the meeting with this particular donor. Share the research you’ve put together and create an agenda for the meeting itself. 

Confirm who will play which role during the meeting—e.g. who will make introductions, lead the tour, facilitate Q&A, etc. Literally role-playing the meeting—acting it out and practicing your script together—can help everyone get comfortable with their parts.

6.  Be Flexible

Now that you’ve prepared yourself and others for how you think the meeting SHOULD go, get ready for it to go differently. This will happen—probably more times than you want it to—but your preparation will be the foundation that supports thinking creatively on your feet. 

Especially if you are preparing for an ‘Ask’ meeting, consider curve balls, such as your donor saying ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ instead of ‘yes’ to your request for support. Be prepared with several options for your donor’s involvement in case they reject your suggested level of giving.  

One final suggestion:  This may sound crazy after the 6 preceding points…but don’t over-prepare. An over-scripted encounter can feel boring and confining. Yes, you want to know your material but there’s a lot to be said for leaving space for positive energy to flow and unexpected things to happen. 

Good luck in your donor meetings!

Tell us about your most exciting (and harrowing) donor visits in the comments box below.

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