From the thousands of interviews with major donors and from the constant conversation with our major donor advisors that I have, there is one word that keeps coming up.
They will say that they are “flabbergasted” at the size of gifts they are being asked for in a first meeting.
Too many operate with the idea that, because they’re speaking with a major donor, and, because they may only get one meeting, they believe they really need to ask and give it a shot.
We believe we know what is going on in the mind of a donor and we take a risk.
This move is risky because it’s misguided. What we are really after in the first meeting is the privilege and opportunity to ask at the right time, when it will be seriously considered.
From time to time, I’ve heard stories of donors being ready, willing, and wanting to give during the first meeting. This is rare.
For the more likely situations, here are some points to consider.
I know people who meet with a major donor after significant efforts to secure the meeting yet spend all their energy on gaining the appointment and are unprepared for the interaction.
If and when a donor asks, “How can I help?” you must have a place to start.
A powerful response sounds like, “I am sure you get asked a lot. You must have many opportunities to give. I would love to share with you a way you could get started and have an impact on us, to see what it’s like. I’d like to ask that you be willing to meet with me again in the future and allow me to share with you the results of what we are doing and the progress that we have made.”
The upside is all to be found in the unfolding relationship, rather than in such limited thinking, “I have got to ask because I am in one meeting.”
Going into a meeting keep in mind the wisdom we find in Proverbs where we’re warned if we fix our eyes on wealth it takes wings and flies away.
We have seen some crazy, inexplicable, miraculous things happen in first meetings, but that was never the plan or the goal. Because it wasn’t the goal, a safe place was created for the donor to start thinking out loud.
Regardless of if they’re giving from the word go or merely open, it’s critical to encourage external processing with donors.
Guide them toward an impactful decision.
Change the mindset. Shepherd donors; don’t prod them.
What’s more important? Significant dollars or significant relationships?
What’s more valuable, a decision made once or that opportunity to have multiple meetings with someone over a period of time?
When leaders understand and can get their brains wrapped around the benefits of meeting multiple times and develop this discipline – look out!
There will be times when meetings are brokered for you and another’s influence has opened the door for significant, seemingly instant gifts.
I encourage you, however, to prepare for the norm rather than the exception. Starting dialogues now will lead to wonderful, life giving conversations full of currently unseen potential.
Getting that first meeting can be a big obstacle at times. We have a tool that can help! Click here to download our First Meetings Tool.