Securing Meetings with Prospects and Donors

Posted on 08/01/2021

Several things need to align in order to have a successful meeting with a donor or prospective donor. First and foremost, you need to find the right prospect. While it would certainly be nice if you could meet with each and every constituent from your institution, a good prospect is someone who has either given to the institution in the past or seems likely to make a gift (ideally a significant gift, however you define that) at some point in the future.

You also need to determine the right time for a meeting. As a busy fundraiser, you will likely have a lot going on. However, the best time to meet with a prospect is, quite simply, whenever it’s most convenient for the prospect. The worst thing you could do is to make them work around your calendar. If that means you need to move existing meetings to fit them in, that’s exactly what you should do.

Finding the right place to meet is important, too. The best location is always where the prospect feels the most comfortable. That said, it can be very helpful to you, as a fundraiser, to try to meet at the prospect’s own home or office, where you can see them in their element. This will allow you to look for clues about their interests and learn more about them as a person. Of course, virtual meetings have become widely accepted (and necessary) in the last year. So even though nothing beats an in-person meeting with a prospect, don’t undervalue a virtual meeting—especially if it’s the prospect’s preference. It’s certainly better than nothing, and there’s a lot you can still accomplish even if you’re not in the same room with them. 

Lastly, remember that a meeting won’t just happen on its own. You’re going to have to ask for it. When you do, make sure it’s clear to the prospect why you want to meet with them. Even though asking for money might be on your agenda, try to focus on some of the other good reasons why you might be asking for a meeting. For example:

  • You’d like to follow up since your last meeting with them (if you had one), their last visit to campus (if there was one), or their last gift (if they made one).
  • You’d like to give them an update on what’s been going on around campus and on some of the exciting things that the institution has planned. 
  • You’d like to talk with them about their reunion or other relevant upcoming campus activities or events.
  • You’d like to get their thoughts and feedback on the institution. 
  • You’d like to tell them about some of the ways they could get more involved, either as a volunteer or in another capacity.

When you’re clear and direct about why you want to meet with a prospect, the likelihood that they’ll take the meeting goes way up. The same can be said for the solicitation itself. The clearer and more direct you are about why you’re asking and how their support will have an impact, the greater the likelihood that your solicitation will end in a yes.

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