The Exploratory Meeting

The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising

Step #6: The Exploratory Meeting

Now that you have the initial meeting confirmed and set with your potential donor, I am a firm believer that you do not use your first meeting, if at all possible, to make the donation solicitation. The first meeting should accomplish two things:

1. Take the opportunity to provide a general overview of your organization. This may end up being a review of information that you included in your initial phone conversation or introductory email or letter. It is a time to briefly share with your potential donor your organization’s mission and vision, a highlight or two regarding your organization’s work, and a sampling of future projects/initiatives as well as the names of key national/local supporters.

2. (most importantly) the purpose of your visit is to learn as much as possible about your donor, their charitable interests, past experiences (positive and negative), and their overall theory of change. While you will have prepared yourself in advance of the meeting to know as much as you can about your potential donor, this is a time to let them talk, to let them express their philanthropic vision, and to find out what burns inside of them when it comes to charitable endeavors.

To learn as much as you can and to keep the conversation flowing and lively, ask lots of questions! Those questions may include:

  • Tell me about your (yourself/your family/your company)?
  • Is philanthropy important to you and your family? Important to your company? What is your personal theory of change?
  • How are requests for charitable donations handled and processed? If there is a formal grant-making process, how often does the governing entity meet and how often are grants reviewed and distributed?
  • What is the average size or range of charitable donation amounts?
  • What charitable organization do you contribute to currently? What drove the decision to give to those particular organizations?
  • Are you pleased/dissatisfied with the effectiveness and efficiency of the organizations you or your company has contributed to in the past?
  • Does your family or company have a designated “charity/cause of choice”?
  • Do the organizations you have contributed to in the past provide you a quantifiable and measurable report on the impact of your gifts?
  • What has been the most fulfilling charitable experience you have been involved with?
  • Do you sit on any boards of the organizations you contribute to? Has this been a worthwhile experience?
  • Do you or members of your family, or your company, enjoy participating in on-the-ground humanitarian missions? What organizations have provided you that opportunity?
  • What are the most difficult issues you face when it comes to charitable giving?
  • Are you in a position where you are entertaining proposals for additional giving opportunities?
  • How do you personally measure the success of your philanthropic activities? What are those accomplishments that earn an “A” grade?

The idea, obviously, is to gain as much information and insights as you can into the giving philosophy and inclinations, as well as the giving process, of the potential donor you are meeting with. Learn what their hot buttons are, and why. Equally important is to learn what to avoid. Listen intently to not only what the potential donors says, but what they don’t say. Get a sense of what burns inside your potential donor and what generates excitement as they speak to their past giving experiences.

All of this information will help you better formulate and tailor the specific contribution proposal you will ultimately present to your potential donor. Perhaps most importantly, out of this initial meeting with your potential donor, you will gain a sense from your potential donor the answer to these two most important questions:

  • Do they have the ability to pay?
  • Do they have the desire to play?

Now armed with invaluable information you have learned first-hand from your potential donor, you are now ready to begin the very exciting and energizing process of building a tailor-made contribution proposal. And the fun continues!

Next Installment: Step #7: Go to the Whiteboard!
This is the 6th part of a 10-part series The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising.
-Don Stirling

Tags: , , , ,

One Response to “The Exploratory Meeting”

  1. [...] 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 [...]

Leave a Reply