The first piece of advice given to new professional fundraisers is typically to “get out of the office and visit your donors.” I have personally given this advice many times to new fundraisers. It shows the importance of building relationships above all else and sets a precedent for their entire fundraising career.
But no one ever really tells them how to do that. How do you decide who to visit? How do you actually get a donor visit? What do you talk about once you’re there? What do you do afterward? I have an entire presentation where I cover this full process, but let’s answer one of these questions today and look at my process for actually getting a visit with a donor…
Once I decide who I’d like to visit, I send the following email (or letter if I don’t have their email address):
Dear Mr. Donor –
I hope all is well and that you’re enjoying these late spring days!
My name is Chad Barger and I am the Development Director of the ABC Charity.
I am writing to see if I could stop by sometime in the next month or so to provide a brief update on ABC Charity. I like to do this with as many of our supporters as possible each year. It’s an opportunity for me to share our progress, to answer your questions and to get some feedback which is always appreciated.
I think 20 minutes would be sufficient – is there a good day on your calendar? Lunch or coffee is also a possibility if you have a bit more time. What about the 20th at 2pm or the 22nd between 1 and 4pm?
Also, please know that while it is my hope that you will continue supporting our cause, at this time I’d just like to meet you and provide this update – I will not be asking for any money!
Thank you for taking the time to read this request and have a wonderful day.
About 50% of the time I will receive a positive response to this email. This is higher than most people expect, but there are a few reasons why. There are specific lines in the email that address any fears or concerns that could prevent the donor from saying yes, like:
- “brief” & “20 minutes” / The donor is no longer worried about this taking up a large portion of the day.
- “get some feedback” / People love to give feedback — they are honored that you are asking them.
- suggesting specific dates and times / This eliminates the hassle of the back and forth scheduling and gets them looking at their calendar (before they’ve even decided if they actually want to meet with you — if they’re available it’s almost an automatic yes).
- “I will not be asking for any money!” / This line alleviates their greatest fear of all!
If I don’t hear back from them within a week then it’s time for a phone call (don’t roll your eyes, you can do it). This call is actually much easier than a cold call because you have a crutch: the email or letter than you sent. The call can go something like this:
Hello Mr. Donor, this is Chad Barger with ABC Charity. How are you today?
I’m calling to follow up on an email/letter that I sent you last week requesting a time to get together. I’d love to meet with you and provide an update on the impact of your support. Would you have any time available next Tuesday? It should only take about 20 minutes.
Between the email/letter and the call, about 70% of my requests result in a meeting.
So there you have it, the nuts and bolts on how to actually “get out of the office and visit your donors.”