How to Conduct a First Meeting………

The assumption here is that you have identified the Major Donor prospect as someone who is personally wealthy and in your view could potentially give a £10k+ gift if further engaged with your organisation. Bear in mind that it might take many months of relationship building before this is realised. Happily for you they have agreed to meet you.

You have read the research from your prospect researcher who might be a staff member or from a company produced profile of this person. Or you have at least, as a minimum, looked them up on the internet and have established some facts about them. You will also have tracked any relationship they might have with your organisation. This could range from ‘sent a £50 donation’ 5 years ago, attended an event, sponsors a child, has a connection with a trustee, on your database and receives newsletters and so on.

The latter gives you a platform on which to begin the conversation such as thanking them for giving, attending, sponsoring, and/or receiving……….

The most important point to remember in this first meeting is that you should not be doing all the talking. As a Major Donor Executive you need to be alert to recognise the person’s values and to dig deep to find out what really interests and motivates them. If you do most of the talking during the meeting, what have you learned to write down on the post meeting contact form?

To do this you need to ask leading questions in this first meeting. But first you need to be confident at explaining key aspects about the charity. The person will feel most comfortable just listening however this is not what you want as they will get bored quickly so keep it short.

Therefore prepare a short, succinct description of your charity, its mission and key facts that you estimate may interest your potential donor (this assumes you have read the research beforehand, have studied it and have made a best guess as to what they may be interested in) and be exciting and fluent at explaining this to them. If you know a possible match of interest (such as their business takes them to Bolivia and your charity works in Bolivia), add in an emphasis as you are describing your work that could be of interest to this person. Perhaps show them a one minute video on your I-pad or laptop.

You should be the one asking the questions as this keeps you in the driving seat. You need to be the one driving the conversation so that you achieve your goal of finding out about them and deciding on the next touch point following this meeting.

Remember they are asking: Do I like this person? Am I convinced by what they are telling me? Are they trustworthy? Are they really committed to their charity or is this just a job for them? Do I want to pursue this? Are they sticking to the time agreed?

The longer you do the talking the more time you are giving them to be asking themselves these questions. If they are talking, they will enjoy the meeting more and will feel a participant rather than being ‘spoken at’. It is a fact that people remember what they have told you not the other way round. So don’t talk too much. Think of a ratio of 1/3 to 2/3. You encourage them to talk 2/3 of the time.

During the meeting use “why” as very often the person will reveal some aspects of their interest. If they suddenly say “Oh that’s really interesting…” don’t use it as a cue to wax lyrical but rather turn it back to them and try “oh really, why is that of particular interest to you?” If you keep asking ‘why’, you will find out a lot about them.

If you asked for a 20 minute meeting, be sure to watch the clock and at the end of 20 minutes remind them that the time is up. They have a choice then to either ask you to stay longer or round up the meeting. By giving them the option you have respected their time and in a natural way have built trust even at this early stage of the relationship. They can be assured that you keep your word.

The key objectives of this first meeting are to decide if you would like to qualify this person on to your caseload. Are they happy to take a journey with you and your organisation? That is, to get to know you gradually over a period of time and to build a relationship. Have the next touch point ready to suggest at the close of the meeting. During the meeting you can assess what that should be. It might be:

• Email them a summary of some further information that has come up during your meeting
• Email them a link to a video
• Agree to phone them next week to hear their reaction to some information you are leaving with them
• Invite them to visit your office
• Organise a meeting with your Chief Executive or a Trustee
• Offer a meeting with a particular Programme Manager related to their interest

Do not leave the meeting without the next touch point in place otherwise you will not know what to do next. The time to agree with them what the next step should be is in your meeting. Then you will get it right as they have agreed!

It will often take at least 9 touch points or 9 months of relationship building before they are ready to be ’asked’ for a gift but for some it could take 12 – 18 months depending on the individual.

Immediately after the meeting write down everything they said so you can keep track of what you have learned so far. Many organisations use ‘Donor Contact Forms’ or keep the information on their database. It is always best to write it down straight away as the longer the gap of time the less you remember. I always recommend it should be within 1 – 2 hours after the meeting.

Finally, enjoy yourself and be intentional about the relationship and where you are taking them. Plan when the Ask will be and work towards this goal.

Giving is a very positive act and wealthy individuals enjoy the satisfaction it brings. They want to hear about the difference they have made. Their problem is who to give to. Aim to make it your organisation!

Comment or ask a question below …

Ruth is the principal and founder of Ascent Philanthropy, author of two books and passionate about helping non-profits with their major gift programmes by offering advice for introducing a new major gift programme or enhancing the productivity of the philanthropy team

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.