How do I get a meeting with my major gift prospects – particularly the ones who are wealthy donors?
That’s a question everyone always wants to know- how to connect with the most wealthy donors on your prospect list.
And it’s a difficult thing – to approach someone you don’t know every well for a personal visit.
It’s sort of like the moment of truth – what happens when you pick up the phone or shoot off an email?
How do you come across as friendly and authentic — someone that your donor wants to spend time with?
This is one of the things about major gift fundraising can be scary and frustrating.
You just don’t know how your prospect will respond to your request to a meeting. It’s even more difficult when you don’t really know them well at all.
In our Major Gifts Coaching program, Kathryn Gamble and I are helping people through this roadblock all the time.
What will make your wealthy donors willing to meet with you?
There aren’t really any “magic words” that are guaranteed to make any donor sit up and take notice, and agree to a visit.
But there are ways that can pique their interest, and incline them to say “yes.”
Here are my favorite ways for you to get a meeting with your wealthy donors.
1. Advice Visits
If you’ve followed me a bit, you may know that my all-time, favorite way to get in the door is to ask for an Advice Visit.
I think asking a donor for input on fundraising strategy or some idea you are working on is the best way of all.
Why? Because you are asking your donor for something more than just money.
You are honoring them because you want their input, their good thinking, their advice.
The bigger the VIP, the more they expect to be doing the talking. They expect to be advising you and telling you what they think.
They don’t want to sit there and listen to YOU.
Try these questions:
- “Can I run something by you?”
This is one of my favorites, particularly because it has a casual, personal feel.
You are teasing your prospect about the topic – it sounds intriguing.
- “I have a project up my sleeve and I’d love to get your input.”
Your donor will probably say yes because he loves offering his opinion.
And YOU want to hear what your donor thinks!
- “Can I brainstorm with you about . . .”
People love to brainstorm. It’s almost always fun to do.
Your donor just might will say to himself “this sounds like fun!”
- “I’d like to get your advice on . . . and would love your help with it.”
You have a specific issue.
Your prospect has the expertise to help you solve it. Everyone wins!.
- “Could I get your ideas on a new initiative we are thinking of launching?”
This is intriguing to your prospect.
She just might be really curious about what you are up to.
2. Try sending a personal letter via mail.
Write your donor a formal note – either handwritten or typed.
If she is already a donor, introduce yourself as her assigned contact at your organization.
Tell her it’s your job to be in touch and that you’d like to meet her and see how you help her.
You can’t go wrong with a polite, gracious personal note. This approach, with its beautiful manners, should impress most donors.
3. Ask your donor to tell you their story.
This strategy comes from one of the smartest major gift fundraisers I know, Eli Jordfald, of the Lineberger Cancer Center at UNC-Chapel Hill.
She will call her wealthy donors and say,
“I’d love to hear why you chose to give.”
Now, who would say no to this?
“Would you be willing to have coffee with me, I’d love to understand your story.”
She is asking with exquisite politeness and charm. Hard to say no!
“Mr. Jones, you’ve been a donor all these years. My job is to know our patrons.”
I think this is a lovely, gracious approach.
4. Meet your donor at an event.
Often you can’t reach wealthy donors on the phone. Or they won’t respond to you via email.
If your donor doesn’t know you well, it’s very hard to just approach them out of the blue.
What about an event that they are likely to attend – because of who is hosting it, who will be there or who is being honored?
If you can manage to meet them at the event and introduce yourself, then it’s much easier to ask for coffee or a quick visit.
If your donor sees you as a polite, gracious and interesting person, then they might be willing to spend some time with you.
5. Thank You Gift.
Many times a busy donor doesn’t think they have time for you.
But if you are dropping off a little thank you gift, the donor might be willing to receive you personally.
The terrific fundraisers at the Baptist Home for Children in North Carolina always visit their most wealthy donors during the holidays at year end.
They just drop off a little gift created by the kids at the home. It’s enough to touch anyone’s heart.
The gift opens the door to a substantial year-end contribution.
Remember my motto: “Find Seven Ways to Thank Your Donor and She’ll Give Again!”
BOTTOM LINE – Getting in the door to see your wealthy donors.
Give these one-liners a try. And let me know how you do!