10 Tips for getting donor visits

As an individual gifts fundraiser, I have found one of the most difficult parts of my jobs to be getting donor visits scheduled.

I understand why people wouldn’t want to meet with me.  They have every reason in the world.  They are busy at work all day, and when they are not at work they are at home with the kids.  And even if they don’t have a job or kids to raise, they don’t want a stranger coming into their home, soliciting them for their hard earned money.  I get it.

With that said, it is my job and my duty to meet with donors.  They have chosen to support my organization financially, and therefore I would like to meet with them and discuss the organization further; to learn of their interest in supporting us, and in what ways I can better serve them.

Here are some good methods for getting visits:

  1. Create a matrix. Determine how many visits you need to make in a week, and how many in a month.  Then determine how many phone calls it will take to set up those visits each week.  Create a schedule to make your calls and make your visits.  And stick to the schedule.
  2. Focus on phone calls.  Set one day a week aside to do nothing but schedule a minimum number of visits Be open to early morning and late appointments – whatever works for the donor needs to work for you.
  3. Create a strategy.  With every donor that you speak to, have in mind a year-long cultivation and solicitation plan for them.  That way you know when to mail them info, when to call them, and when to make the ask.
  4. Make a reason to call.  It is not a good idea to just fly by the seat of your pants.  Donors don’t want you to call just to chat.  There should be a good and justified reason why you are calling and why they should meet with you.
  5. Who should they meet with? Sometime you aren’t the best person for the meeting. When dealing with high-profile executive, perhaps it is better that they meet with your CEO.  Or maybe it should be a Board Member in a similar industry.  Or maybe they want to meet with a woman. Or a man. The point is, you should cater to each individual and their needs.
  6. Ask for their opinion.  A good method for getting your foot in the door is to ask for their advice.  If they support your group, they most certainly have opinions on your work, and things you could do to improve.  Develop a questionnaire or survey that you can bring, which works especially well for busy folks who don’t have a lot of time to meet.  This makes your meeting feel more official and formal.
  7. Bring a gift. It is a good idea to not show up to a meeting empty handed.  I like to bring a certificate for the donor, that honors all of their past giving.  This makes them feel good.  If they are not interested in a certificate, then perhaps a pin, or a sticker, or something else.  Anything at all to show you care.
  8. Friendly competition. Use the staff around you to push you to be more aggressive.  Perhaps you can compete for visits each week, month, and year.  Whatever is necessary to provide extra motivation.
  9. Weekly staff updates.  It is a good habit to meet each week with staff to report back, review progress, seek advice, and develop strategies.  This is beneficial to step back and take a breath, too.
  10. Patience and persistence.  You may not have a good phone call with a donor. But this does not mean that you should stop calling.  Don’t give up on anyone.  Just find the right strategy that you won’t be completely shut out.

These are ten tips that I have personally found useful. It is still a frustrating process, or at least it can be if you allow it to be.  I believe a good mantra to have is that you’re not desperate. You’re not begging for a meeting.  Rather, you are adding value to their lives by presenting to them all the good things your organization does, and how it improves the lives of everyone else.

People like to be appreciated.  They like to be happy.  So if nothing else, bring happiness to them.

Goo luck.


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