KEY TIP: Get It Right! Successful Donor Visits

Key TipFace-to-face visits to donors and prospects can be the most effective way to solicit major gifts, given that the right person from your nonprofit — having done the right research — is asking the right person at the right time for the right amount for the right purpose and for the right reasons. Meeting in person to make the right ask can be an excellent way to generate larger gifts, often resulting in higher percentages of participation than any other solicitation methods can produce.

Help your board, volunteers, and staff members who may be part of your cultivation team organize effective personal visits with your nonprofit’s major gift prospects. Who are your right prospects? Anyone who has the financial ability to give a major gift, along with an interest to make a contribution to your nonprofit, either demonstrated through past gifts of cash, services and/or time to your organization or anticipated based on other indicators.

Here’s how to start:

STEP ONE: Compile a list of your current donors who have given a gift of $125 or more to your nonprofit for the past two consecutive years.
STEP TWO: Eliminate any who do not reside in the area where you plan to make personal visits.
STEP THREE: If your list is longer than expected, increase the minimum gift level to $250 or even $500.
STEP FOUR: Sort your list in descending order, placing those who have given more on top.
STEP FIVE: To determine the number of visits that might be made, multiply the number of people from your organization who will do the visits by five. For example, if you have ten board members, four volunteers and two staff members, your total will be 80.
STEP SIX: Take your total (in our example, 80) and select that same number of prospects from your list. These become your Right Prospects.
STEP SEVEN: For each Right Prospect, find out everything you can about their interests, past philanthropic activities, and viewpoints. It is crucial to anticipate how likely a prospect is to react to a request to increase their support of your nonprofit. Complete a Donor/Prospect Profile by answering the following questions for each:

—In which area(s) of your organization is the prospect interested?
—How strong is that interest, and how has it been demonstrated?
—Does the prospect have an established relationship with someone at your nonprofit? If so, who?
—Does the prospect have a business or social relationship with one or more of your organization’s major donors? Who?
—What are the prospect’s personal interests and avocations?
—Does the prospect have control or influence over philanthropic dollars? Which ones?
—Has the prospect articulated any public stance on issues of concern to your nonprofit? If so, what are they?
—What other organizations has the prospect supported and for how much?

STEP EIGHT: Assemble your cultivation team(s) for each Right Prospect. It might only be a couple of people per team. Each cultivation team should be viewed as a special task force for the cultivation of the Right Prospect, who may be an individual, a couple or even a family.
STEP NINE: Develop and implement a confidential personal strategic plan for the Right Prospect. Monitor progress and modify the plan, as needed.
STEP TEN: Schedule and conduct a visit with the Right Prospect to talk about your nonprofit.

REMEMBER: People give money to people. People do more for those they trust. People give more money to those they trust most. Be sure to build a personal relationship over a period of several months or years before asking and ensure that whoever asks your Right Prospect is someone he or she respects (considered at equal or higher level).

Follow these 10 steps and you should get it right on your next face-to-face visit with a donor or prospect!


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