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  • Writer's pictureHillary Frances

Getting donors to say YES to your meeting invites


A few generalizations about our calendars:

  • We have too many meetings on our calendar that we are not looking forward to.

  • We are not quite sure how they got there.

  • We invite other people to meetings that we are not looking forward to.

  • Donors will not look forward to meeting with you unless you create an agenda that adds value to their calendar.

Creating an agenda for donor meetings that adds value to the donor’s calendar requires two steps:

  1. Researching a topic of conversation that the donor will be interested in because it draws on their expertise.

  2. Creating a line of inquiry about that topic that connects to your organization. The line of inquiry can either be to:

  • Ask for advice on a topic that centers their expertise for your own personal growth (leadership, fundraising, mentoring, something you want to build a skill in).

  • Ask the donor to brainstorm a future decision your organization is facing based on their expertise.

You do not need a wealth screening database to conduct research on donors for the purpose of creating a meeting agenda that adds value. Google searches will produce the insight you need. A LinkedIn profile will tell you the intellectual topics that might interest them based on their education, work history, and volunteer experiences.


The following case studies illustrate use of these skills.

 

Donor Profile 1: Nonprofit Executive

Characteristics:

  • 30 year old female leader of international nonprofit organization

  • Moderate wealth, husband is a dentist

  • Their organization’s annual report shows they are doing well in fundraising

Their priorities:

  • Growing their donor base

  • International aid to Philippines

Topic of discussion:

  • How to engage donors who are not physically located in proximity to the people we serve

Questions to ask:

  • Ask how you raise money from folks who feel disconnected to the Philippeans. I am working really hard to find ways to connect donors in our city with the work we do and would love to learn how you help donors connect their lives to people who live such different lives.

  • What are the characteristics of organizations that will make it on your giving list this year?


Example Meeting Invitation Email:

Dear Elise,


I have learned of your consistent generosity to (YOUR ORGANIZATION) over the past few years. Specifically, our Executive Director has told me that you have been a faithful major donor and have also volunteered consistently when we call on you. He even told me that you canceled a trip you had planned so you could attend the Mock Interview day last year. When I heard this I thought, “I came to work at the right place. (YOUR ORGANIZATION) is a compelling organization to leaders all over the city.”


I’d love to request 45 minutes of time with you sometime in the next few weeks. You in particular are someone I’ve been wanting to talk with more because I have heard that you bring a unique perspective on fundraising. During our conversation, I’d like to:

  • Ask how you raise money for (HER ORGANIZATION) from folks who feel disconnected to the Philippeans. I am working really hard to find ways to connect donors in our city with the work we do and would love to learn how you help donors connect their lives to people who live such different lives.

  • Learn more about your family’s philanthropic priorities outside of the Philippines. What are the characteristics of organizations that will make it on your giving list this year?


I’m available [insert dates]. Is there a day or time that works best for you? I’m really looking forward to continuing this conversation with you, and learning more about your unique connection to (YOUR ORGANIZATION).


Best,

Hillary


 

Donor Profile 2: Water Quality Engineer

Characteristics:

  • 50 year old male leader of water treatment company

  • Significant wealth indicators

  • Has a degree in water quality management

  • Company is hiring trades professionals

Their priorities:

  • Running a competitive business

  • Customer service

  • Leadership

Topic of discussion:

  • The future of STEM education in our city.

  • His opinion about the future of STEM education in our city as it relates to our organization’s work of preparing youth for a 21st century workforce.

Questions to ask:

  • Did mentors play a role in helping you get to where you are now?

  • How many of the folks you’re hiring have 4 year degrees or CTE/trade certifications or apprenticeship backgrounds?

  • Share our Workforce Development program overview and ask for their insight as an employer on what would make Sharefest program graduates more compelling to future employers.

  • Do your philanthropic priorities relate to your business goals or are they separate? Ex: You are more likely to develop a company-sponsored scholarship versus giving unrelated to your company.

  • What are your philanthropic priorities in this community and elsewhere for the coming year?


Example Meeting Invitation Email

Dear Stan,


Thank you so much for attending our recent Mock Interview Day. I noticed you really had a way of making the youth feel comfortable and more confident after speaking with you! Thank you again.


I wanted to ask you for a conversation about the future of STEM education in our city. I know a little about your background as an engineer and the fact that you run a company staffed by engineers, water quality managers, and mechanics, to name a few. These are career paths we talk with our students about in our programs. One of the most interesting conversations we’re having internally is whether or not we continue to point students to four year degrees or to Career Technical Education (CTE) certification programs. We know “it depends,” but I’m curious about your thoughts.


During our conversation, I’d like to:

  • Hear more about your background as an engineer and if/how mentors played a role in helping you get to where you are now.

  • Ask you if many of the folks you’re hiring have 4 year degrees or CTE/trade certifications or apprenticeship backgrounds.

  • Share our Workforce Development program overview and ask for your insight as an employer on what would make Sharefest program graduates more compelling to future employers.

  • Do your philanthropic priorities relate to your business goals or are they separate? Ex: You are more likely to develop a company-sponsored scholarship versus giving unrelated to your company.

  • Learn about your philanthropic priorities in this community and elsewhere for the coming year.


I’m available [insert dates]. Is there a day or time that works best for you? I’m really looking forward to continuing this conversation with you, and learning more about your unique connection to our organization.


Best,

Hillary


 

Donor Profile 3: Venture Capitalist

Characteristics:

  • 20-50 years old

  • Obtained wealth from venture capital, banking, start up, or technology sector

  • May or may not care about outdoor activities

  • Driven by achievements, productivity, and becoming famous or well-known

Their priorities:

  • Solving previously unsolvable problems at scale

  • Innovation and sense of discovering something

  • Were apart of something at ground zero

  • Asking “why not” when creating new products

  • Wanting to offer something other than capital (expertise and connections)

Topics of discussion:

  • The 10x Model. Astro Teller, CEO of X, argues that making something 10x better is easier than making it 10% better. Shooting for the moon, or setting bold goals, requires that you “throw out the rule book.” He says that aiming to make something a little better means “you start from the status quo, with all the existing assumptions, locked into the tools, technologies, and processes that you’re going to try to slightly improve. It means you’re putting yourself and your people into a smartness contest with everyone else in the world. Statistically, no matter the resources available, you’re not going to win.” So at (YOUR ORGANIZATION), we’re not trying to make something “a little better.” We’re trying to make it 10x better.

  • Strategic planning for organizations that are solving unsolved problems.

  • Managing a rapidly growing team.

  • Growing from the startup phase to a more mature phase of development.

Questions to ask:

  • What have we seen in the social sector that’s making a 10x solution rather than a 10% solution?

  • What’s it going to take for the social sector to move in that direction?

  • What do you see in the start up/tech industry/your industry that is working?

  • What would happen if nonprofits were able to follow these models? How would that change our range of impact?

  • What type of social sector organizations are you watching?

  • What are the leadership qualities you most admire that exist within the organizations you invest in?

  • How would moving the needle on youth development support your goals (insert what they’ve told you their goals are for their philanthropy)?

  • What type of big investment would you like to make next that would fulfill a desire to see a particular problem solved once and for all?

  • What are the guiding questions that focus your philanthropic priorities or investments?


Example Meeting Invitation Email

Dear Mark,


My name is (INSERT NAME). I’m the Development Manager at (INSERT ORGANIZATION. I learned of you through a conversation I had with Ramona who works with your wife at the University.


I wanted to ask you for a conversation about the types of leaders you interact with in the tech startup world. As a nonprofit leader, I’m convinced that our sector can learn from Silicon Valley. One of the ways I believe we fall short is our ability to envision bold solutions to pressing problems. I imagine many of the entrepreneurs you work with are inventing solutions to problems rather than wishing to put a dent in them. I’d like to talk with you about why the nonprofit sector suffers from this type of boldness.


Specifically during our conversation, I’d like to:

  • Talk about the 10x Model. Astro Teller, CEO of X, argues that making something 10x better is easier than making it 10% better. Shooting for the moon, or setting bold goals, requires that you “throw out the rule book.” He says that aiming to make something a little better means “you start from the status quo, with all the existing assumptions, locked into the tools, technologies, and processes that you’re going to try to slightly improve.

  • Ask you what you have seen in the social sector that’s making a 10x solution rather than a 10% solution?

  • Ask you what type of social sector organizations you are watching.

  • Ask you what type of big investment you would like to make next that would fulfill a desire to see a particular problem solved once and for all.


I’m available [insert dates]. Is there a day or time that works best for you? I’m really looking forward to this conversation with you.


Best,

Hillary


 

Donor Profile 4: Family Foundation Leader

Characteristics:

  • Obtained wealth from investments, “old money”

  • 50+ years old

  • Broad philanthropic portfolio

  • Identifies with being a philanthropist

Their priorities:

  • Managing their investments wisely: security, making safe bets

  • Consolidating their efforts: choosing one organization that’s best at what they do rather than funding several medium-sized organizations in the same cause category

  • Preparing the next generation for our world: more cause-oriented

  • Preserving the world for the next generation

Topics of discussion:

  • The characteristics of an organization worth investing in.

  • The characteristics of a leader that can build a maturing organization.

  • Their advice on what type of program models are most effective in our sector.

  • The qualities of organizations that become beacons that others look to.

Questions to ask:

  • What changes have you seen in how we steward the environment now vs. in the 70s? 90s?

  • What have you seen in the climate restoration sector that requires new models?

  • What are the qualities of an organization that becomes a beacon that others look to for their model?

  • What are the factors that put an organization at the top of your philanthropic priority list?


Example Meeting Invitation Email

Dear Eleanor,


My name is (INSERT NAME). I’m the Development Manager at (INSERT ORGANIZATION. I learned of you through a conversation I had with Angela who receives funding from your family foundation.


I wanted to ask you for a conversation about the qualities of organizations you see that become beacons that others look to. I am aware of the history you have of giving deeply to impact change in our community and I’m curious what you’ve discovered about the qualities of organizations that become models to others. Our organization is working to achieve this level of organizational maturing in the next several years and I specifically wanted to get your insight on this question.


Specifically during our conversation, I’d like to:

  • Talk about the characteristics of an organization worth investing in, according to your team and colleagues.

  • Ask you about the characteristics of a leader that can build a maturing organization.

  • Ask you what you have seen in the climate restoration sector that requires new models.

  • Ask you what are the qualities of an organization that becomes a beacon that others look to for their model?

  • Ask you about the factors that put an organization at the top of your philanthropic priority list.


I’m available [insert dates]. Is there a day or time that works best for you? I’m really looking forward to this conversation with you.


Best,

Hillary

 

In short, we believe that major donors respond to meeting invites that add value to their calendar. Creating an agenda that adds value to the donor’s calendar requires two steps:

  1. Research a topic of conversation that the donor will be interested in because it draws on their expertise.

  2. Create a line of inquiry about that topic that connects to your organization.


Please reach out to share examples of how this is working within your portfolio!


Do you want help with your major donor portfolio? Please reach out to us to discuss how we can help.


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