Whether you want to cultivate or ask for support, a face-to-face meeting with a prospect or donor will usually be the most effective approach. To ensure the success of your meeting, you need to carefully plan for it. That includes knowing where to avoid having that meeting.
Two types of locations make particularly poor choices for meetings:
Restaurants/cafes. Such locations can be problematic for any number of reasons. Your guest might not feel comfortable discussing personal matters in a public setting. The noise level of the restaurant might not be conducive to conversation. Servers will inevitably interrupt your discussion. The choice of a specific restaurant could even be problematic. Consider the following true story that I shared in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:
The development officer picked up the donor at her home and drove her to the Four Seasons Hotel for lunch in the very lavish Fountain Room. The donor was appalled. She refused to be seated and told the development officer that lunch in the more casual, and less expensive, Swan Lounge would be more appropriate.
When relating the story to a friend, the donor expressed her outrage that the hospital would waste her money by taking her out to such a fancy restaurant. She even thought the more informal Swan Lounge was too much.
When asked if she would be making another gift to the hospital, she said, ‘Absolutely not! They waste too much money.’”
If you really want take a prospect or donor to a restaurant, or if she insists on meeting in one, make sure you ask her, “Where would you like to go?”
Office of the other person. From time to time, a prospect or donor will want to meet in his office. He might feel more comfortable in his own office. He might appreciate the convenience of meeting in his own office rather than traveling across town to yours. It’s possible he might even want to show-off a bit to you.
While visiting with someone in her office will give you a chance to learn more about her professional life, be prepared for interruptions and distractions. Another problem with an office meeting is that they tend to be more formal and less relaxed than meetings held elsewhere.
So, where should you visit with prospects or donors?
The individual’s home. There are a number of benefits to meeting in someone’s home. He will likely feel relaxed and comfortable. He will be more willing to discuss personal matters in a private setting. You’ll have a chance to learn more about the individual just by looking around. You’ll get a sense of net worth, hobbies, family, etc. These insights will help you more effectively build rapport. In addition, you’ll learn things that will help you better understand what motivates the individual and how you can match your organization’s needs with the individual’s interests.
Your site. Depending on the objective of your planned meeting, you might want to invite your prospect or donor to visit you at your office. This will give you a chance to introduce the individual to your colleagues. Your prospect or donor will also have the opportunity to see your organization in action (i.e.: preparing meals for the homeless), see physical changes (i.e.: a new building on campus), or see something special behind the scenes (i.e.: a painting not yet on public display).
Here’s a true example, from Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, that illustrates how powerful it can be to have a donor visit your location:
A hospital in the rural Pacific Northwest held an event to thank individuals who had made a planned gift commitment as well as to express appreciation to those seriously considering such support. The event involved a tour of the facilities, including the pediatric services wing, followed by lunch.
During the lunch, an elderly gentleman stood up [without being prompted] and said that he was very impressed. He was familiar with the hospital, the only one in town. But, neither he nor his wife were familiar with the pediatric services wing. The gentleman told those gathered that he and his wife have no children themselves. However, during the tour of the pediatric services wing, they realized that the community’s children were their children.
He went on to announce that he and his wife would be leaving their entire estate, consisting of a rather large farm, to the hospital for the benefit of the pediatric services wing. If the couple had not been given the opportunity to meet staff, see those benefiting from the services, and better understand how the hospital is fulfilling its mission, they may very well have made a much less generous commitment.”
Wherever you meet with your prospect or donor, there are four essential things you need to do following your meeting:
1. Send your prospect or donor a thank-you note for having taken the time to meet with you. A handwritten note is your highest-impact option.
2. Keep your promises. If you promised to send the prospect or donor more information, do so immediately. If you promised to follow-up with a phone call in three weeks, do so.
3. Jot down notes. While you might want to ask permission to take notes during the meeting, you should know that note taking makes some people more guarded. So, if possible, resist the temptation to take notes during the meeting. However, immediately following the meeting, pull your car off the road and jot down key points from the meeting.
4. Make sure to place your notes in the individual’s file. Your notes will be helpful to you, and they will be a help to any of your colleagues who may need to contact the individual in the future.
Where is your favorite or least favorite place to meet prospects or donors?
That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?