Three Important Goals for Every Major Donor Visit

When you are making a call on a major donor prospect, what are you really up to?

You finally have the meeting with Mr. Big. What's next?

You finally have the meeting with Mr. Big. What’s next?

Don’t get confused about your REAL purpose when you finally get in front of Mr. or Ms. Big.

Guess what!

Your real goal is NOT money.

AND it’s not to make a presentation either.

Today, in your very first visit – you are after the real thing.

It’s a productive relationship.

What would that look like?

You hope that after your visit, your prospect would be wiling to respond to your emails. Maybe answer your phone calls.

Perhaps, after your visit, she might even be willing to come to an event, or take a tour. Maybe even make a gift.

old group photo

Leisurely conversation will tell you so very much information!

But on the “first date” with your prospect, you can’t go too fast.

Slow down and you’ll be glad!

If you can just slow down, then you can create something that will be much longer lasting.

Here are three important things you want out of every single major donor visit you make:

1. You want to establish a long term productive relationship with your prospect.

You want to be able to ask her for advice. Or ask her about other potential donors.

You want her opinion of new events or initiatives. You want her to tell you what other people in town are saying about your organization.

And you hope that you can eventually ask her for a favor. Or money.

In other words, you want her to become a friend to your organization.

This kind of long term productive relationship is worth a lot to an organization. You want plenty of community leaders feeling friendly to you. Right?

Why? Because they will help you behind the scenes when it comes time to divvy up community resources.

Once I heard someone say “if you are not at the table, then you might be on the menu.”

Having lots of friends around the community keeps that from happening to you!

2.  You are looking to find out where your prospect stands.

Another important goal for your visit is to find out your prospect’s disposition toward you and your cause.

Perhaps he is a former donor – does he still feel close to your organization?

Real Love

Finding out what’s in your donor’s heart – that’s the first step toward a gift!

Perhaps she is brand new to the community – could she become interested in your cause? Could she be helpful?

If a couple are potential donors, then you will be trying to gauge their level of interest. You’ll want to try to figure out how you can bring them even closer.

This is why you should never, ever do too much talking in a donor visit!

You really really want to know what’s going on in your prospect’s mind.

If you do all the talking, then you’ll never find out all the information that you really need to grow the relationship.

Many people think their job is to make a presentation to the prospect.  Or they want to bring the prospect up to date.

Beware! This may OR MAY NOT be a good idea.

You do this ONLY If the prospect WANTS to know the information.

She’ll let you know.

If you are watching her reactions to you, as you certainly should, you can tell immediately if she really wants to hear all that or not.

 3.  You are looking for the next step.

Why is the next step so very important?

Because you won’t have a relationship without a next step!

You've got to figure out your next step with your prospect!

You’ve got to figure out your next step with your prospect!

Don’t leave your prospect until you have an idea for several followup next steps.  That’s your most important objective of all!

What can you do NEXT to encourage your prospect’s interest?

Can you find a reason to circle back to them to keep the communication coming?

Did you find out what they were interested in so you can followup?

Did they ask a question that you couldn’t answer?

Great! Then you have a reason to followup.

Want to know how to make a successful visit on a major gift prospect?

Join me for my free webinar on Friday, October 12, at 2pm ET.

I presented this on Wednesday but we maxed out our attendance. So I decided to schedule another presentation.

It should be a fun webinar, and you will certainly gain some important take-aways!

You can find out more about the webinar and register here.

Leave me a comment!

What are your biggest challenges when you visit major prospects?



  • Tammy Zonker

    Great advice once again Gail! In the donor-centric world of major gifts, we listen way more than we talk and it’s always about the relationship and the donor’s desire to engage in your organization. Even seasoned fundraising professionals need reminding!

  • Sandy

    Thanks! This was very helpful and I passed it along to my development committee!

  • Claire Axelrad

    Reminds me of the old adage: You have 2 ears and 1 mouth; use them in that proportion. :-)

  • gailperry

    Hi Tammy, you are so correct! Looking forward to seeing you at the Toronto Fundraising Congress!

  • gailperry

    Ah yes Claire! But it is a natural thing to do? Sometimes not! :)

  • gailperry

    Sandy, let me know how they react!

  • Robin L. Cabral CFRE

    Great article Gail – I just finished a course on Major Gifts at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and they stressed the importance of the “Discovery Call”…thanks for this reminder!!!

  • gailperry

    Hi Robin, thx! Do you like making Discovery Calls? I sure do! It’s like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get!

  • Robin L. Cabral CFRE

    It is…so nice to just get to know people and determine a mission fit along with philanthropic priority!

  • DavidmSena

    I have found that listening and asking longtime donors open-ended questions can lead to interesting results. Assumptions are worst than death. Donors priorities change due to life circumstances. It is good to ask open-ended questions again even if you think you know the answer. I have found donors are on a journey with their philanthropy. Find out where they are and if your organization can be a part of the journey with them.

  • gailperry

    David, sounds like you are a very experienced fundraiser! We all listen far more than we talk! Yup!