Getting in the door and the next step

Keeping a relationship with a major donor offers challenges, or opportunities for the optimists in the fundraising cohort, at many different stages.

Speaking during the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ annual conference, Patty Lonsbary of Bob Carter Companies and Louise Aspin of Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation said that major donors usually have gatekeepers, are wary of the purpose of a visit and find personal visits to be time consuming.

For those reasons, it is important to plan not only for the visit but also for making the appointment. That means:

  • Send an introductory letter one to two weeks before making the first call. (An email is basically the same as a letter.)
  • Give the prospect the option to call the fundraiser.
  • Determine if one of the organization’s volunteers has a connection to assist in getting in the door.
  • Make the call: Connect or go to voicemail.
  • Leaving a voicemail increases the chances for a return call, but only if the fundraiser is ready to leave a good, convincing message.

And all of that means:

  • Have a rehearsed message.
  • State the purpose of the call in 30 to 45 seconds or less.
  • Be compelling. Find a way to connect that provides interest in the organization, such as asking for input or advice.
  • Call on behalf of someone they cannot ignore.
  • Be interesting with an upbeat tone.
  • Be reachable.
  • Be persistent.