Professional Networking Etiquette With Potential Donors

Professional networking etiquette with potential donors

Your approach

Major donors usually have lots of people lobbying for their financial attention, not only other nonprofit organisations seeking support but people with personal financial difficulties too. In order to begin a relationship with a new potential donor, your organization needs to get their attention quickly.

The best way to get the attention of a major donor prospect is by having someone who knows them introduce your non-profit.  If a board member, donor, staff member or volunteer at your organization knows the prospect and is willing to make the introduction and vouch for your nonprofit, it can kick-start the relationship in a way that few other tactics can.

Other ways to get the attention of a major donor prospect are by getting that person to come to an event (fundraising or non-ask), connecting with employees at the prospect’s business for volunteer opportunities, releasing a major report or holding a note-worthy seminar or hosting an important speaker, launching a campaign in a program area that matches the prospect’s interests… the possibilities are (nearly) endless, but no matter what you choose to do, you have to get the donor’s attention before he or she will be able to focus on your nonprofit.

It’s all about relationships!

Relationships are important in any organisation. They’re especially important in fundraising. Whether you’re talking about an online donor ho makes a monthly R50 contribution to your organization or a major philanthropist who gives R1 million to your next campaign – in some way, you have built a relationship with each of them, which motivated them to give.

Once you get the donor’s attention, don’t just jump straight to the ask!  You need to cultivate the prospect and build the relationship between him/her and your organization. Building trust and showing true interest in a person’s experiences, beliefs and values will lead you to lasting rewards — both personally and professionally. When you nurture strong and authentic relationships, your network will grow — and so will your potential for fundraising success.

Remember something. When you meet someone new, remember their name — say it out loud a few times or write it down if you have to — and at least one other thing: where their office is, what their dog’s name is, where they traveled last. That gives you a starting point with your next conversation with them. Give every new relationship a solid foundation that you can build on as you expand your donor reach.

Ask, listen and repeat. People love to talk about themselves. It’s human nature — our way of sharing our take on the world. So whether you start a conversation or join it, ask good questions and give people a chance to talk, if they’re so inclined. Shoot for three to five questions every time you meet someone new. It’s OK to stick to the same topics — pick whatever you find most interesting. family, work, travel and hobbies.

Follow up. 

Especially if you ask someone to introduce you. Once you meet, don’t let
your relationship-building mojo fade away as fast as time flies. Reach out, build time into your busy schedule for a coffee or lunch or happy hour with them before you become “someone they met at some event somewhere … what was her name again?” Following up is most important if you ask someone to introduce you. As you nurture these new relationships, go back to the beginning and be thoughtful about making introductions.

Explain the Investment

Prior to making an ask of a new major donor, explain the investment you are asking them to make.  My choice of words here is intentional… many major donors feel that their charitable giving is really an “investment” in a better community.  They want to invest in nonprofits that are going to deliver the best outcomes for the largest number of people in the donor’s chosen giving areas.

Through your cultivation process, you should know what program areas are most important to the major donor prospect.  Explain to him or her exactly what your plans for the future are, what you are hoping to raise, and why you need the money.  What outcomes are you predicting?  How many people will you serve?  What is the return on this major charitable investment?

Emotion plays a big part

No matter how great an investment your non-profit may seem, major donors still give primarily to organizations they feel an emotional connection with.  Thus, the best way to raise major gifts is to present your organization as both an emotionally compelling, mission- driven organisation as well as a wise investment.  An emotional connection still trumps, all else being equal.

Tell the donor stories.  Get him or her to come out to your program sites.  Make the prospect feel an emotional connection to your work.  If you can do that, you are well on your way to developing the prospect as a long-term supporter of your cause

Thank your donors

Thanking donors is both an easy and important part of keeping people engaged. When supporters feel appreciated, they are more likely to give in future. Personalise your communications by including details of past achievements or what their donation has helped to support, and always be prompt in thanking your donors. Supporters like to know how their donation is helping to support your work. Keep donors updated via project
reports, update emails, newsletters and personal thank you notes. This helps to build relationships with your donors and increase their engagement over long-term.

If you would like to keep updated on our NPO Networking Events in South Africa, please contact us here.

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