“What is the projected negative impact over the next ten years if the new proposed tax bill passes in my state?”
A donor who was a large supporter of the organization I was fundraising for asked me this question. I was caught off-guard. Though I knew the basics of the policy, I could not begin to give him an answer at the level he desired.
While it made for a great follow-up opportunity, I knew my approach to meetings with this gentleman needed some work. He wasn’t just testing me—this was truly what he enjoyed thinking about and discussing. So, for my next meeting, I was sure to bring along a policy analyst who could provide this donor with a detailed, wonky analysis of this particular issue in a way that I wasn't equipped to do. The donor loved the conversations with the analyst and his relationship—and giving—to the organization deepened.
As development officers, we serve as A donor's “conduit” to our organization. But we don’t always have the detailed insights on very specific issues and projects that we know (or should know) they care about. We don’t always have the position of authority that they desire to rub elbows with and speak to on a personal level.
But someone does. Bringing along an additional member of your organization—a program staff member, a vice president, even the president—can add depth to your meeting and really improve the donor's perception of you and your organization. These "meeting partners" can enhance your cultivation and your pitch while also drawing the donor closer to the organization through a strategic approach.
Meeting partners might be
When determining who to bring with you to the donor meeting—and if you should bring anyone at all—think through what value they bring to this specific meeting with this specific donor. Don't think that you just need partners for meetings. Think about the donor, what they would appreciate, whether you should bring someone, and then—finally—who you should brind. Should it be a subject-matter expert? Are they a good personality fit? Is she someone the donor may want to hobnob with? Is she numbers-minded enough to can connect with a donor who is very data-driven?
Meeting partners can work both ways. Sometimes, the best person to bring along is someone who already knows the donor—and they can serve as the best introduction to the donor for you. Other times, you know the donor and your organization, and you're trying to be a good conduit, identifying the best colleague to introduce to this donor.
Really analyze the value a meeting partner is going to bring. There are many benefits that can come from bringing a meeting partner, and you want to consider this ahead of time. This is just part of preparing for a meeting!
There are also pitfalls to avoid if you determine a meeting partner makes strategic sense:
Not every donor and not every meeting requires a partner and they should be used strategically. But when leveraged properly, they can pay dividends in building relationships with donors and increasing their affinity for the organization.