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6 Ways to Get The Most Out of a Major Donor Visit

You finally got an appointment to meet with your Big Donor…now what? Always ready with great fundraising advice, guest blogger Gail Perry has terrific guidance for us in her guest post this week below. Thanks Gail for these terrific tips. Gail’s top fundraising motto…“when in doubt, shut up!”

6 Ways to Get The Most Out of a Major Donor Visit

Ok, you have the appointment with your Big Donor! Yay!


Now, you are walking into her office! Hurray!

Or should you be saying, “Yikes! What do I do now??”

Don’t strike out when you finally get in the door!

I’ve seen lots of people strike out when they finally get that coveted appointment with their major donor.

Why? Because they bore their donor. They blather on and on. Don’t let that happen to you!

Make sure you engage your donor while you are in her office!

Here are my top ways to get the most out of a major donor visit:

1. Always set objectives before you walk in the door.

I hope you have multiple objectives to accomplish during this visit.

BE SURE you decide on what they are ahead of time!

Don't shoot yourself in the foot once you get in the door!

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot once you get in the door!

If you don’t know what you want to accomplish beforehand, you certainly won’t accomplish as much during the visit.

You need to be ruthlessly practical about this visit. Know WHY you are going to see Mr. Prospect, what you want to find out, what level of interest you are trying to generate.

2. Ask for advice.

I’ve talked a lot about Advice Visits here,  here and here.

It’s absolutely the best way to get in the door. Just say you want to pick their brain.

They’ll be willing to see you if they know that THEY get to do the talking.

They just don’t want to get stuck listening to some boring presentation. Do you?

You can never go wrong by asking your donor what she thinks of this strategy, or that event, or this publication, or even your entire fundraising approach.

3. Listen, listen, listen.

If you are doing more than 50% of the talking you are DEAD.  Listening is a lost art!

When in doubt, shut up!

When in doubt, shut up!

One of my top fundraising mottos is “when in doubt, shut up!”

The fundraiser’s KISS OF DEATH is talking too much!

Your goal in this visit is to find out information about your prospect.

You’ll never find out anything if you do all the talking!

Use your radar to pick up all sorts of info about your donor.

And your prospect’s questions TELL YOU EVERYTHING.

They tell you where her mind is taking her. They tell you what her objections are.

They tell you the level of interest and enthusiasm she has for your project.

4. Show up as an interesting person and an interesting conversationalist.

grim reaper

The Fundraiser’s Kiss of Death – talking too much!

If you show up as an interesting person, then your donor will want to spend time with you.

Otherwise, they’ll “dismiss” you as uninteresting. Or worse, possibly a bore.

Showing up as interesting – means you are not a waste of their time.

You are pleasant to be with; you’re reasonably attractive (that simply means well-groomed, not slovenly.)

That means you are able to ask interesting questions.

If you are meeting with bank presidents, I hope you are reading the Wall Street Journal!

Ask him, what he thinks of the current Fed policy regarding the economy? Or ask him how the banking industry is doing as it recovers from the recession.

Be smart and ask smart questions. Let them do the talking and they will like you a lot. :)

5. Probe their interest in your cause.

Ask questions like:

  • What do you think about our organization?
  • What about the need – is it real?
  • What do you think about this project we are working on?
  • How do you think we can raise the money? (this is one of my favorite questions!)
  • How can we best address the need?
  • Do you agree with our plan?
  • What interests you personally about the problem we are addressing?
  • What do you think our best strategy is for lining up support?
  • Who else would be interested in hearing about this?
  • Who else can help us?
  • How can we get them on board?

You can find out so much by just asking great questions.

6. Listen for the donor to say “we.”

I wait anxiously for the donor to start using the word “we” when she’s talking about us and our project.

What does “we” tell me?

It means she is BOUGHT in!  She’s joined the team! She thinks of herself as part of US! Yay!

You want your donor to start saying things like “we need to be doing this and this. . . ” instead of saying “you need to be doing . . .”

And when she makes the switch, you know you’ve made major progress.

You are no longer an outsider to your donor. You’re now someone she believes in and wants to help.



Gail Perry, MBA, CFRE, is an international fundraising consultant, trend-spotter, speaker, trainer and thought leader. Her Fired-Up Fundraising Board Workshops have inspired thousands of board members to get actively involved in fundraising. Gail’s book, Fired-Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action (Wiley/AFP) is the “gold standard guide to building successful fundraising boards.”   

Gail’s Fired-Up Fundraising approach, developed over the past 25 years as a non-profit philanthropy expert, has helped organizations raise hundreds of millions in gifts and support.  Gail launched her fundraising career at Duke University and then directed the fundraising program at the Kenan-Flagler School of Business, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.