Landing major donor meetings can often feel like landing your great white whale. Here are seven ways to make it possible.
These are the two magic words that start any great donor connection. Unfortunately, they’re also easier said than done. Donor meetings drive your organization forward, and landing them is all about building relationships.
With that in mind, here’s a look at seven ways to land major donor meetings.
1. Plan a Visit, Not an Appointment or a Meeting
The first step in landing a major donor meeting? Stop thinking of it as a meeting. Don’t think of it as an appointment either, and don’t book it in the same way you would book a meeting or appointment.
You make an appointment with your dentist. You have a meeting with your boss. Mechanics and doctors require appointments. When you hear the word “meeting”, most people slap the word “business in front of it.
Neither of those will get a major donor on board.
Visits, on the other hand, are fun. They’re social. You visit friends to have a lovely lunchtime chat and nibble on good snacks. A visit has a much warmer, much more sociable connotation than an appointment or a meeting, and you want that warmth when you reach out to a major donor candidate.
2. Ask for Advice
Next order of business? Don’t ask for money. Instead, ask for advice.
As a fundraiser, you’ve likely encountered the fundraising adage, “If you want advice, ask for gifts; if you want gifts, ask for advice.”
Here’s the thing: people don’t like giving money. Or at least, they don’t like to be asked for money. It makes them feel like you only care about the money. However, people love to give advice. There’s actually a psychological reason for this–giving advice makes people feel more powerful. More importantly for your purposes, it lets the major donor feel like you’re invested in hearing their opinions and putting their ideas into action. That’s way more meaningful than asking for money.
3. Ask to Learn More About Them
Another approach is to ask the donor if you can learn more about them. This can be a different type of visit from an advice visit or it can be a natural outgrowth of your conversation while asking for advice.
People like to feel as though their listener cares about what they have to say. Asking to learn about them is one of the simplest ways to achieve this. Think about it–one of the first things you do when you meet a new friend is endeavor to learn more about them.
You want your donor to think of your conversation as if they’re talking to a friend. To that end, ask about them as if you’re talking to a friend, listen to what they have to say, and strike up a conversation. In time, the donor themselves will loop the conversation over to what you’re doing at your organization.
4. Ask for Their Story
Asking for someone’s story is a slightly different version of asking to know more about them. This approach is better suited to donors who have already given money in the past.
Anthropologists tell us that stories are central to human existence, a common trait shared among every human culture in the world. It’s not just the act of reciting a tale, but an active exchange between the teller and the listener that we learn to navigate from a young age. This is how we connect as human beings.
In plain English, by asking your donor to tell their story, you’re offering them a chance to connect. And as with asking your donor for advice or asking to learn more about them, you’re showing them that you care about more than just the money they gave to your organization.
Plus, if they’ve already given to your organization, asking them to share their story is a great way to show gratitude for their gift. It brings the focus on the story of the donor who gave it and why they chose to give rather than the fact of the money itself.
5. Make It About Them, Not You
In case you haven’t caught on to the trend yet, when you visit a major donor, you have one mission: make it about them, not about you.
In fact, every time you speak with a donor, you should strive to make it all about them, not your organization. If you ever hear a donor utter the words, “Usually people only call me when they want more money,” shudder in horror and strive to show the donor that your organization cares about them, not the money.
6. Be Clear About Your Intention
However, it is important to recall that people don’t like being tricked. Especially when you eventually hope to get a major donation out of them.
While you should make the visit or phone call all about the major donor, you should nonetheless be crystal clear in your intention to talk about philanthropy. The key is to posit this in a way that still makes it about the donor. Using the ask for advice example, a good formula is to explain to the donor that you’d like their advice on a new project and explore a giving opportunity.
Remember, your goal here is not to prioritize your organization, but to prioritize them. From the donor’s perspective, it’s all about them, and you’re simply there to match the donor with an opportunity that they care about (conveniently, it’s also an opportunity you care about).
7. Don’t Just Reach Out to Ask for Money
We mentioned this before, but we can’t repeat it enough: don’t just reach out to ask for money.
The art and science of fundraising is all about people, not numbers. If you reach out to ask for money, you’re playing a numbers game. If you try to connect with people, you’ll have far greater success–and far more dedicated donors.
We Help You Connect the Dots with Major Donors
At BrightDot, we know that major donor meetings–like the entirety of fundraising–are built on people. The thing is, everyone has relationships. Good fundraising is about leveraging those relationships. Our job is to help you connect the dots.
Ready to make your fundraising more human? Get in touch today to learn how our team can help.