Dating your donors, Part 1: The 1st Meeting

Fundraising is based on relationships – those you have and those you create.  Thus, we can learn a lot from the dating world.   In the following series we’ll look at the initial meeting, making a match, courting, defining the relationship and keeping the love alive.  First up – the 1st meeting. Comb your hair and grab the breath mints. Let’s go.

Pick-up lines

At restaurants, bars, meetings and even coffee shops – you bump into people all the time. Thankfully (and hopefully), there are more people in the world that might support our causes than there are potential romantic partners.  And in both situations, you need to have your pick-up lines ready. It’s what is custom and expected after sharing your name – usually in response to ‘what do you do?’.  I’m not talking about the schmoozy or slimy one-liners from your local bar, but a short phrase that sums up your efforts and interests.

Here are some examples…

Don't be this guy
Heyyyyyyyy. Don't be this guy.

“I raise money for the local zoo.”

“I mobilize companies to end child abuse.”

“I help alumni give back to their school through scholarships”

What’s yours?  Try a few out loud or even write them down.  Test them in networking and social scenarios – maybe you even have a few depending on the situation. Shoot for engaging, compelling & confident without sounding cocky, slick or schmoozy.

NOTE: While most in nonprofit leaders are ‘always on’ (meaning they’re always thinking about their organization and looking to make connections) it’s crucially important that your efforts are truly genuine.  No one likes a friend who’s always ‘working’ or feels like they’re being sold all the time. In fact, being yourself and not pushing anything will often lead to more engagement and interest from others.

Start a discussion

The person’s reaction to your one-liner will give you the direction you need to follow up – IF appropriate.  If they ask about it, tell them more. Most will say “Oh, I bet that’s so rewarding” or “How’d you get into that?” – have your answer ready that helps them realize they can ‘feel so rewarded’ or ‘get into it’ too!  I’m a philanthropy and nonprofit nerd (oooh, new blog title – Nate the Nonprofit Nerd? Nah.) and often ask questions about their service efforts, philanthropic philosophy or how they make decisions about which causes to support amongst all the great ones out there.

People’s answers fascinate me.  I love learning about how people make choices, what they think about causes, and more.  It usually gets me fired up to share more about what my organization does, debate the philosophy of community or why market failure leads to the necessity of a third sector. These conversations give you the opportunity to learn A LOT, demonstrate your passion and show your genuine interest in your cause.

Next step

In the dating world, the gold standard is getting that phone number.  The real one.

It’s important to get the contact info of your new friend and some sort of next step.  If appropriate, share with them that you’ll follow up in an email to connect on the things they discussed. Maybe you’ll introduce them to your volunteer manager or get a tour of your services on the calendar.  Depending on the circumstances in which you met, and what you feel is appropriate – connect with them on Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Twitter.

Lastly, when you get home, reflect on the experience.  In the dating world, this is when you’d call your best friend and share about the amazing person and potential partner you just met – or laugh about the stupid things you said.  Instead, write down all the things you just learned about the person. Even better, email yourself or call your own voicemail and recite important parts of the conversation while it’s fresh.  It will be important when you look to make the match – which we’ll discuss next.

What do you think about initial meetings?  Have any tips? What works for you?

4 thoughts on “Dating your donors, Part 1: The 1st Meeting

  1. How do you recommend finding donors to “date”? We are working on developing and expanding our currently small donor base. What would be the best way to court these donors when they do not have a past giving history with us?

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