Do you remember the excitement and nervousness you had when you were heading out to make that very first donor visit? Mine was almost 15 years ago now, but I remember many aspects of that visit very clearly… some good and some, well, let’s just say I’ve changed a few tactics since then.

Some background:

I was a one-person development shop and the very first Director of Development for this organization! Those two things alone led to many issues that new organizations typically have to deal with:

  • How do we create a culture of philanthropy from scratch?
  • How do we raise money for the ‘overhead’ of a new department?
  • How does a rookie start the process of asking for money when he is unsure of himself?
  • With so many areas that need donated support, where do we begin?

With a little trepidation, I prepared for my meeting.

I had my “proposal” sheet ready to go, which showed the need and how this donor could make a difference! Looking back, I can see that the donor most likely saw right through my “presentation” and humored me with his humility and kindness!

Chips and salsaSide note: I went to a Mexican restaurant (I knew it was the donor’s favorite) which was probably not the best idea. The donor tried to calm me down as I nervously ate through two baskets of chips and salsa.

I did learn a few valuable lessons that day:

1. You need to have relationship information available to you (interests, likes, passions the donor has, etc.).

2. Let the donor communicate why they want to give. If you listen, they will tell you. Keep in mind, this is not why you think they should give, but why they want to give!

3. Be yourself. I went in trying to be what I pictured a “fundraiser” should be. That lack of authenticity was completely transparent to the donor.

4. ASK! I still find it a bit baffling that fundraisers will come up with so many programs that will allow them to avoid asking a donor for a gift.

5. Finally, donor engagement is the key to giving and loyalty. If the donor is not engaged in your mission (or even with you as the fundraiser), then the gift will not be given or it will be much smaller that it normally would have been.

I thoroughly enjoy working in the nonprofit market place! I do still chuckle to myself at what I learned back then, and of course, what I still need to learn today!

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Wayne Robbins

Wayne Robbins

Wayne Robbins was VP of Sales at Bloomerang. A graduate of Hyles-Anderson College, Wayne has over 15 years experience in nonprofit and faith-based development and fundraising in addition to his 10 years of experience in sales.