Are face-to-face meetings with donors overrated?

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Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

When I first got into professional sales at Washingtonian Magazine I was taught that the only way to really sell anything was to get face-to-face with a prospect.
That was back in 1988 and I’d agree that, back then, it was true. But today, almost 30 years later, I think face-to-face meetings for most situations might be overrated. I don’t think you necessarily have to meet with every donor assigned to you. Instead, I think you need to determine first which donors and/or prospects do want and need to meet with you. Which ones want that kind of relationship and why? What can you do for them?
When I first got into professional sales at Washingtonian Magazine I was taught that the only way to really sell anything was to get face-to-face with a prospect.
That was back in 1988 and I’d agree that, back then, it was true. But today, almost 30 years later, I think face-to-face meetings for most situations might be overrated. I don’t think you necessarily have to meet with every donor assigned to you. Instead, I think you need to determine first which donors and/or prospects want and need to meet with you. Which ones want that kind of relationship and why? What can you do for them? Did you notice the nuance here!
In other words, you need to first figure out which ones want a relationship with you and the reasons why. Otherwise, you’ll waste time and learn 2 things quickly:
1. Prospects lie. I know that’s harsh but it’s true. Many times they won’t tell you the truth because of a litany of reasons. Maybe they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Maybe they don’t trust you. Maybe they’re embarrassed about something. Who knows?!
Bottom line: When you call them to ask for a face-to-face meeting, many will lie!
2. They don’t see what value you provide…. yet. They aren’t ready! How do they win by meeting with you? What’s their benefit? What do they get out of it? Keep in mind, they are probably afraid that you just want their money. Perhaps you’re the third gift officer assigned to them in the past 10 years. Who knows?!
Bottom line: If you don’t clearly present the value you can provide that meets their unique needs, they won’t see it. They won’t see you! And, if you don’t know what value they would appreciate, then you’re really screwed!
So how the heck are you supposed to raise a lot of money if your prospects won’t see you, are likely to lie to you, and you don’t know what value you can provide for them?
First, the trick is to embrace this. Recognize that it ain’t 1988. Except the paradigm as it is.
Next, understand the reasons why most of your supporters including the wealthiest ones will not want to talk to you… yet.
Then, open up two-way dialog channels using digital and traditional channels. Be available when they are ready. Make it easy. Don’t just go for the meeting right away. Ease into it.

  • “Click here to arrange a meeting with a Gift Facilitator.”
  • “Chat Now Online.”
  • “Email us by clicking here.”
  • “Tell us what you think by filling out this survey.” I think you’ll want to use our SurveyGiftmaker platform for that!

And once the channels are developed and opened, create valuable offers that will attract engagement. Give them something first. Here’s a list I created to help you do that!
Finally, when they lean in to accept what you are offering… when they engage by clicking or filling out a form, be there for them. Call them. Provide excellent service. Ask them questions about their interests, needs and desires. Tell them how you can fulfill their needs. That’s when you’ll be more likely to be able to get that face-to-face meeting!
You have to give before you can get! You have to give respect! You have to provide value! You have to offer opportunities for them to better themselves!
 
Now, I’m going to circle back to the title of this article.
What I’m saying here is that face-to-face meetings with people who want to meet with you are NOT overrated. But face-to-face meetings with people who are not ready ARE!
Stop getting upset because your prospects and donors won’t answer their phones or respond to your emails. Stop banging your head against the wall. It’s over! 1988 is gone! Don’t try to force meetings before you’ve given.
Instead, embrace the fact that you need to provide value before you can ask for a face-to-face meeting. Here are 10 ways to do that.
You need to open up the channels of communication. You need to make it easy, convenient and fair. You need to employ new technologies. You need to find out who wants a deeper relationship and why.
To do so, to find out what your donors really want, you need to draw forth “verbatims” (using surveys) and digital body language (using internet tracking technologies). Not sure what I mean? Read this old post about that stuff.
 
Stop trying to get a meeting with someone just because they are wealthy. That’s what’s really overrated, not the meetings themselves. Instead, aim to set more meetings with people who have the capacity to give and are ready for a deeper relationship.
 

One response to “Are face-to-face meetings with donors overrated?”

  1. Mike says:

    Trying to land a meeting with people who appear to be wealthy often results in meeting with people, who have large amounts of debt. There’s very little net worth.

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