Getting the Meeting:
Top Tips for
Donor Face Time

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D, Senior Vice President of Consulting Services

Face it: You can’t get far along the path of obtaining a major gift unless you’ve met with the donor face-to-face at least once. It’s an invaluable time to get to know the donor and his passions. It’s your chance to make the case for why your project is worth the investment.

Some experts estimate that 80 percent of donors who receive a visit go on to make gifts. But getting that visit can be hard. Donors are busy, hard to reach, and maybe even shy! Securing the meeting requires tenacity and perseverance – but these tips will help.

Getting the Meeting

  • Start with correct contact information (phone number, address, and email).
  • Send a letter telling the donor when you’ll be in town and that you’ll call to follow up. Then call!
  • Write out your phone conversation in bullet points.
  • When calling, stand up and smile! Your voice will sound warmer and more engaging.
  • Keep small talk brief and let the donor know right away why you’re calling. Don’t play guessing games.
  • Focus solely on scheduling the visit. Don’t sell your programs. Save that for your face-to-face time together.
  • “I’ll be in your city and am calling to see if I can stop by to visit you.” This establishes the urgency of setting a meeting now, because you are not always there.
  • Be specific. Offer two or three choices of dates/times for her to choose.

Meeting Prospects

  • Ask to meet for a limited time – say, 30 minutes – so she knows it won’t be a major commitment.
  • Use trigonometry. Triangulate your approach by going through a friend who can help reach the donor and set a meeting.
  • At the first meeting, do not ask for a gift. Have a wonderful time together. Learn about his interests. Share how your work aligns. No matter how well it goes, stick to your plan not to ask.

Meeting Current Donors

  • Request advice on an initiative in which the donor is interested. “I’d like to visit and get your input on new project.”
  • Offer to share an update on a project the donor supports. “I’m excited to tell you what we’ve achieved with your generosity.”

On Meeting Day

  • Don’t call to confirm. The donor might have second thoughts and cancel! Just move ahead with your plan.
  • Thank the donor for the time to meet, and if applicable, for support!
  • Don’t answer all of the donor’s questions during your visit. Say “I’ll get back to you.” This way you can continue the conversation and set the stage for another visit.

If you have a donor or prospect who doesn’t ever want to meet, invite him to an event and try to connect in person that way.

Good luck and onward!

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D. serves as Senior Vice President of Consulting Services at AC Fitzgerald. She uses her expertise in fundraising, management, and leadership development to oversee our consulting efforts and deliver exceptional service to clients.

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