The “cold call” strikes fear in the hearts of even very seasoned fundraisers, but it can be an essential step in the cultivation of a new donor relationship. The goal of any cold call is to get an initial meeting (“the discovery call”) to determine if and why people believe in your cause and identify ways to engage them.
Despite the importance of these initial steps, many of us don’t take the time to think about how to do them most effectively. What’s holding you back from initiating a meaningful conversation with a new potential donor? More important things to do? Trying to “close” a gift? Fear?
Getting the meeting
Once the meeting is booked, do your research and prepare briefing notes. To prepare, write out your meeting objectives, ideal outcomes, and any key messages to share.
In the meeting
In the meeting, put your companion at ease. Use questions to talk with someone rather than speaking to someone. You will notice that as you ask questions and give feedback, the person with whom you’re meeting will have a tendency to reinforce the topics that are most important to them. Remember, this is not about pushing, but about gauging interest.
Before you end the meeting, be sure to identify next steps. Consider:
When it comes down to it, major gifts are inspired acts of commitment that can have a significant impact on an organization’s development program. It’s worth taking the time to prioritize how to fill your pipeline with major gift prospects. To do that, you need to invest the time to know whether someone is both capable of and interested in making a major contribution to your organization.
Not everyone will be interested or will want to become further engaged – and that’s okay! Despite anxieties about “cold” calls, this knowledge won’t come to you without first picking up the phone.
Teresa Marques has worked as Principal Gift Officer at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Foundation in Toronto for the past three years. In the past decade, she has specialized in major gifts and campaigns, but has worked in every development function, with a focus on healthcare philanthropy. She serves on the board of the Working Women Community Centre and was Chair of AFP’s 2013 “Fundraising Day” conference. She is a member of the Advisory Council of Imagine Canada.
Contact her at 416-535-8501 ext. 39557 or by email.