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How to Make a Successful Call on a Major Donor Prospect

Resource Center - Foundation

Gail PerryToo often we measure success in dollars raised and forget that long-range fundraising is all about building relationships.

AFP had a chance recently to chat with Gail Perry about donor visits and cultivation, the subject of her upcoming webinar on May 26

Q:  How do you define a successful visit?

A:  The #1 factor in a successful visit is leaving with a follow-up next step. You really, above all, want to develop a long term relationship with your donor. Never, ever leave a visit without a next step. 

Another factor will be if you accomplished your objectives with the visit. 

  • Did you find out their hot buttons? 
  • Did you find out why they are giving to your organization? 
  • Did you find out about their philanthropic hopes and dreams and what they hold important in the world? 
  • Did you find out how interested they are in your cause? 

You are doing reconnaissance with every visit. 

Finally, do you think the prospect enjoyed him or herself enough to see you again? Your time with prospects should be cordial and almost fun. If it feels like work to your donors, they are not going to be willing to see you again! 

Q:  How do you identify prospects? 

A:  I look everywhere: 

  • I read the local paper and see who is giving to what. 
  • I listen to local word of mouth.
  • I look at former and current board members.
  • I do wealth screening on my own donor files.
  • I ask around.
  • I look at other organizations' donors. 

The hard part is organizing raw data on prospects into a Prospect List that actually makes sense. You need a rated Prospect List that helps you set your priorities!

Q:  What groundwork should be laid before you make a call?

A:  You want to do as much research as possible on your prospect. Know everything there is to know about them that you can find:

  • Comb thru your donor files. 
  • Find out who knows them at your organization. 
  • Google them - and read everything. 
  • Read their linked in profiles. 

THEN, set your objectives for the visit. What do you want to accomplish? 

Q:  What if they say no?

A:  If your prospect says no, first look at yourself and how you presented yourself. 

  • Perhaps you didn't show good manners in your phone call or email. 
  • Perhaps you didn't come across as a likable person who the prospect might like to meet. 
  • Perhaps you said the wrong thing when asking for the visit. 

Don't say "I'd like to update you on what we've been up to." That is not intriguing to the prospect. 

Instead ask their advice in some way so that they know that THEY get to do most of the talking.  For example, say, "I'd like to run an idea by you that we are working on." Or, "I’d love to know your story and how you came to be a donor to our organization." 

Then consider if there's another way to meet the prospect: 

  • Can you get someone to open the door? 
  • Can you find out where the donor has coffee in the morning and introduce yourself there? 
  • Can you meet the prospect at a local community event?

Or, would the prospect be willing to meet with someone higher up in your organization—your CEO or board members for example? 

But finally, if your prospect really says they are not interested, then you need to be willing to "bless and release them."  Not every prospect wants to meet with you.  And that's ok. 

Q:  If not fundraising … ? (What would your second career choice have been?)

A:  Ah yes, what a fun question! I probably would have chosen politics or activism of some type. I’m a revolutionary at heart. I've been involved in politics all my adult life, as a volunteer, and it's been a fun and fulfilling avocation. As I write this, I'll be dashing off soon to go to a political event this evening! Fun fun! 

Either that or ballet dancing, but I wasn't quite good enough to be a professional dancer, so maybe I would have ended up a choreographer or running a dance company.  I'm currently a closet hip hop dancer and working on my moves.  Maybe I'll break loose with wild man dancer Harvey McKinnon at the next AFP Conference in San Francisco!  

To find out more about donor cultivation join us for Gail’s webinar on May 26, 2016 at 1:00 PM Eastern, “How to Make a Successful Call on a Major Donor Prospect”. 

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