Step #5: Get Inside the Door!
You have now reached the point where the first phase of preparation is complete. You are an enthusiastic believer in the organization you represent and truly enjoy selling its services and benefits. You have taken the time to define who you are as an organization, what services you can provide, and what it is you actually have to market and offer. You have done your homework, first by gathering as much intel as you can on others who offer the same services or benefits, as well as a sense for the actual demand for your services, as second, by researching and identifying who your true potential donors are. By way of review, these first four steps of preparation are:
- Love What You Do and Love What You Are Selling!
- Define Who You Are, What You Can Provide, and What You Are Offering
- Information is Currency!
- Identify Your Prospects
You are all set. Now, you need to get a first meeting. While simple on paper it is sometimes grueling in execution, I suggest three different approaches to securing that oh-so-important first meeting with a potential donor or company.
Approach #1 is to send an introduction letter or email that includes either a brochure or packet of information about your organization. Send something that will get the attention of the potential donor and delivers a bit of the “wow” effect. Make sure that the letter or email itself and any enclosed materials are a clear extension of who you are as an organization and reflect the services or benefits you can provide. As part of the body of letter, make sure it is clear that YOU are going to make a follow-up call by a certain date AND to set a time to meet. While it is important to avoid being perceived as too aggressive or too overbearing, it is as important that the potential donor knows that you very much want the meeting and will follow-up, as noted, to make it happen!
Approach #2 is to pick up the phone and call. Depending on how much information you need to convey in advance of a meeting, the opportunity to actually speak to the potential donor can be very powerful—so long as you are on your toes and can very briefly accomplish two things—one, explain who you are and, two, do so in a manner that leads into your request for a meeting.
Approach #3 requires that you ask yourself, ask others in the organization, or ask those in your personal Rolodex the question, “Is there anyone who already personally knows or has an existing relationship with the potential donor?” Never be bashful about utilizing others to help you set up that first meeting. It can be as simple as your contact saying, “Hey, I just spoke to so-and so over at this organization. He or she is a pal of mine, is doing great work, and he or she will be giving you a call to set up a time to get together. I think it would be well worth your time to learn about their organization.”
Oft times getting that first meeting may take a combination of all three approaches. Don’t become discouraged if at first you are met with some resistance. When my own ability to secure meetings is growing tough, I always remind myself of a couple of things. First, if it were an easy process, anyone could succeed! It is not an easy process, but I am skilled enough to make it happen. And second, I must assume there are many, many others trying to reach this person—which verifies and confirms the quality and opportunity-upside of this potential donor.
As a guy who played a ton of basketball, I learned a great lesson from my high school coach who taught us that great players are always willing to do those things and make those sacrifices that good players aren’t—whether working out alone, in practice or in games. The same holds true for those in development and fundraising, as we show our desire to work and sacrifice when it comes to getting that first meeting. The great fundraisers are willing to make one more call, send one more email, ask one more person to help get a meeting, and spend one more hour trying to figure out how to meet and reach that potential donor.
Over the years I have had the chance to spend some time with Danny Ainge, the former college basketball player-of-the-year and NBA All-Star. Ainge, who won two NBA titles with the Celtics as a player and one as Executive Director of Player Operations, and who still ranks as one of the NBA’s best three-point shooters ever, subscribed to this philosophy when it came to misses and makes: “I would rather go 8 for 17 than 4 for 4.”
When it comes to getting inside the doors of potential donors, and securing that first meeting, Ainge’s wisdom is spot-on!
Next Installment: Step #6: The Exploratory Meeting
This is the fifth part of a 10-part series The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising.