Selecting Locations for Prospect Meetings
Real estate experts will tell you that the three most important things to consider when buying a home are location, location, and location. The right house at the right price—but in the wrong area—is probably not a place where you’ll enjoy living and is unlikely to be a good investment in the long run.
Location can be an important aspect of fundraising too, especially when it comes to meeting with prospective donors. Of course you want a place that’s quiet, professional, and conducive to a conversation. But you also want an environment that allows you, as a development officer, to listen, observe, and get to know the prospect better. While you may not always have control over where your meeting takes place, you should do what you can to influence the location. Be proactive and suggest a location that both works to your advantage and feels comfortable for the other person.
Here are the three best places (and the worst!) for a meeting with a prospective donor:
- Their home or office. Meeting someone “on their turf” can not only make them feel comfortable and relaxed, but it can provide you with clues that will help you understand what’s important to them. These could include things as simple as pictures on their wall, books on their shelf, or items on their desk.
- A symbolic spot on your institution’s campus. A student center, cafeteria, or a construction project worksite can help show off your institution’s activity and mission in full effect. It puts the prospect right in the middle of the action and helps them to feel part of a community.
- A restaurant or coffee shop. A neutral location like this is often what’s most comfortable or convenient for prospects. And don’t underestimate the power of breaking bread (or sipping a cup of joe) when it comes to creating a bond and a connection between people.
If you are proactive and make suggestions when securing the meeting, it’s likely that one of these three locations will be acceptable to your prospect. If nothing else, at least try to avoid the worst location for a prospect meeting: your office. Unfortunately, this is one that is all too often suggested by development officers out of convenience. Remember that it’s not about you and your comfort. It’s about the prospect and the institution, and seeing how they can best fit together.
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