How to Prep Like a Pro … and Achieve Better Donor Outcomes

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

It takes a lot of work just to secure a face-to-face donor meeting. Then after the donor agrees to meet, you still need to consider schedules, logistics, strategy, and more.

To add to the pressure, this may be the only time in the entire year when you will get focused time with this donor.

With so much riding on these meetings, it makes sense to prepare as well as you can to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Here are 10 tips for preparing for donor meetings like a pro:

  1. Write down the goal of the meeting. What is the purpose? Are you cultivating the donor for a future ask? Providing stewardship for support already received? Or soliciting for a new or upgraded gift? For how much?
  2. State the minimal acceptable outcome. If you don’t achieve your major goal, what would be satisfactory in your mind for advancing the donor relationship?
  3. Research the donor’s background. In addition to a bio, the donor’s giving history, and his history of engagement with your organization, search for any recent news articles. Also consider the donor’s personality. Is this the dominant go-getter who will make a business-like decision? Or is it someone who enjoys being very sociable and goes off on tangents? Or a person who takes time to deeply analyze a situation or request? Ramp up your emotional intelligence so you are prepared to respond to each personality.
  4. Prepare the logistics. This is an often-overlooked aspect of meeting prep, but something that can cause a lot of stress if not considered. What is the weather at the donor’s location? You don’t want to show up looking like a drowned rat, if rain is expected. What is the temperature? What is the drive time from the airport to the meeting place? What is the expected length of the meeting?
  5. Consider the location of the meeting. Will you be at the donor’s home? In a noisy restaurant? At a club? Or at the donor’s office? The location may impact your ability to have a private conversation and ask for a gift.
  6. Read up on local news. Based on the donor’s interests, consider what is happening in their world. Is the home sports team winning? What is going on politically? How’s the regional economy? Troll through local news articles for a flavor of the region.
  7. List what you would like to learn. What don’t you know about the donor or the donor’s interests as it relates to philanthropy? For instance, is the spouse or family involved with making decisions about gifts? How successful is their business? What is their alma mater and are they still involved? What other organizations do they support?
  8. Reflect on what might inspire the donor to give. Based on your research and knowledge of the donor, try to determine the projects or programs that would encourage the donor to give or increase her support.
  9. Prepare for objections. Encourage everyone on the team to poke holes in your presentation. Prepare responses in advance to clear objections likely to be voiced by this particular donor, and to more general responses such as, “That’s a lot of money.”
  10. Decide what handouts you will bring. Consider what materials you want to leave behind with the donor to showcase your work and impact.

These meetings are important, and you put a lot of work into securing each and every one. Be sure they don’t go to waste!

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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