If you’re like me, you’re not interested in wasting your time. That’s why I’m a big fan of actually qualifying prospects on a qualification visit!
The math here is simple. Your success as a major gift officer hinges more on the cultivation and solicitation stages of the fundraising cycle. And unless you have a brand new portfolio, that’s where you want to spend the bulk of your time.
So, when you have the opportunity to sit down one-on-one, you don’t want to waste it. There’s nothing less efficient than leaving a meeting still unsure whether the person you met is a real prospect.
I should say here that not every first meeting is a qualification meeting. If your prospect is on the Forbes 400 AND is willing to meet with you, you don’t have any questions about capacity or inclination.
An extreme example, yes, but you get the point.
So, let’s get back to the language of qualification. We’ve already covered making a good first impression, building rapport, and questions that probe for capacity and inclination.
Let’s keep going.
You’ve built great rapport with your prospect. It’s time to get down to it.
We’re in the business of transitions. We help people move from caring to investing.
On a smaller scale, we make transitions within conversations. Starting with where a prospect currently is, we help them move to that next step. Or at least explore it!
In my post on preparation, I provided some examples of different ways to transition to a discussion about your prospect’s philanthropy. Here’s a script for each type:
Current annual fund donor
“You’ve been giving to our work for years now, which of course means a great deal to us. It’s because of folks like you that we’ve been able to _______. Can I talk to you about a special project on our horizon? I think you’d be interested in it; and, to be honest, we could use your leadership.”
Supporter of other organizations
“I understand you’re very involved with [orgs X & Y]. It seems like you’re making quite an impact with these organizations – I’d love to hear more about the projects you’re involved with. […]
Clearly these are top priorities for you when it comes to your personal philanthropy. And, I hope it’s something you plan to continue! Private giving is also a powerful enabler at [name of your organization]. Can I highlight some of the things that we’re able to do in the community thanks to our donors?”
You really have been a ‘go to’ volunteer this past year. In fact, I’m not sure our annual holiday event happen could have happened without you! We’re lucky to be able to count you among our friends.
Now, since you’re so close to the organization, I know it’s no surprise to you that we rely heavily on private support. I’m not sure how much thought you’ve given to supporting the organization with a special gift of your own. If it’s okay with you, I’d love to look down the road a little bit and share a few ideas. It could be a great way to further your impact at [name of your org].
I’m delighted you were able to join us for our event last month. Did you feel like you left a little more familiar with the work we do? Well, the challenges around [specific issue] are enormous and we need help from people like you who care. I’d love to hear your feedback on our plans to address this issue.
Jim has been a hero for our organization. You know as much as anyone how generous he is. I can honestly say that without his help, we would have been able to ________. And his story is repeated throughout the organization. Private support from individuals truly is a difference-maker.
I’m sure you’d agree that addressing [specific issue] is of critical importance. It’s certainly top of mind for us, and we’re developing some plans for solving the problem. I’d love to get your feedback and talk through some of the ways we could partner together.
And for my fellow educational fundraisers:
(If the alum is an annual fund donor or volunteer, use the examples above. If not, try this.)
We’re proud to count you among our alumni. In fact, our school couldn’t do much of what it does without its alumni. They’re involved in a variety of ways and many support the university financially, which allows us to _______. You can have a similar impact. Have you ever thought about [school name] when it comes to your giving?
I’m delighted you’re pleased with [student’s name]’s experience so far. When our parents are happy, we’re happy! And to be honest, we’re humbled by the way [school name] parents have embraced the school. Many now include it in their plans for charitable giving. I don’t know if this is something you’ve considered, but given your enthusiasm for _______, I’d love to leave you with an idea or two to think about. Would that be okay?
To Ask or Not to Ask
It’s one of the key judgment calls in a qualification meeting. Here’s a flowchart that will help you clarify your thinking.
I usually make some type of “soft ask” during the first visit. It’s not a request for a specific amount to fund a specific project, but more of an ask to ask in the future. It helps me gauge the following:
- Can she envision herself giving in the foreseeable future?
- Does she have the capacity to make a major gift (however you define it)?
- What are the barriers and/or possible objections?
- How much cultivation would be needed? What type?
All important questions when trying to qualify a prospect!
Here’s an example of a “soft ask:”
Bob, I know we’re not there yet, but I’m hopeful that, should you continue to learn about our work and see value in it, you’d be willing to contribute to what we’re doing down the road.
At other times, you just need to go for it. If your rapport is good, your prospect is inspired, and there isn’t any advantage to further cultivation, why not? Make the ask!
Nailing Down the Next Step
You came into the meeting with a few ideas for a possible next step. At this point in your visit, you should have a good idea for which option is best.
Keep it focused on your prospect here. Make it feel like you’re involving him in a special opportunity because of something about him.
I think you’d enjoy meeting our Executive Director. You’re clearly a big-picture guy and I’m confident you’d enjoy his perspective on _______.
You don’t necessarily need to do a hard sell on the next step because you can always follow-up with the prospect after the meeting. But, definitely mention it so you can gauge your prospect’s reaction and become more certain that it’s the right thing.
You know, we could use a few people in the weeks ahead to [description of volunteer opportunity]. Since you have a heart for [people served], it would be a great way to get close to the action.
If you disqualify the prospect during the meeting, then obviously you don’t need to worry as much about next steps. Be polite, but keep it vague.
There isn’t too much to say about parting impressions, other than to be aware of your “aftertaste.” If there’s a technical term for it, I’m not aware of it. I simply mean the lingering impression you leave with a person.
Similar to first impressions, I want parting impressions to be enthusiastic, EASY, natural, warm, etc. Here’s a quick list of dos and don’ts:
- Reiterate how glad you are to have met them
- Thank them for time
- Let them know you plan to stay in touch
- Smile, shake hands, etc.
- Try to sneak in more information while parting
- Ask for a gift
- Prolong it unnecessarily
Again, there are patterns that we associate with natural, easy conversation – the type we’d have with a friend. Try and make your parting/goodbye like this.
So, that’s it! Qualification visits from end to end.
Hopefully these last two posts left you with some new ideas for what to say next time you’re out doing this type of work.
Questions? Anything we should talk more about? Leave a comment!