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Do I Really Need to Meet Donors Face-to-Face to Raise Money?

In-Person Donor Meetings

By Rhen Hoehn, Director of Marketing

I'm often asked, “Why would I spend time and money to go meet donors for coffee when I can just send them an email or letter?”


Or, “Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to put a little time into grant writing, rather than meeting with people and hoping some of them will make big gifts?


And, I tell you this.  There is no easy way out when it comes to fundraising significant donations to increase the impact of your organization.


Momentous growth in your ministry comes from five-, six-, and seven-figure gifts. In most nonprofits, especially religious nonprofits, these types of gifts come from individual donors. 


Gifts of this magnitude can come from grants, but with an average success rate around 10 percent, grants are not a reliable path.


Gifts of this size just do not come from appeal letters or emails. They require boots-on-the-ground, face-to-face relationship building with donor prospects. 


No fundraising activity is more valuable than the “major gifts” process of sitting down with donors in person. Here is why:


The Impact of Personal Connection: 

Building trust and credibility are the cornerstones of successful fundraising. Face-to-face interactions humanize the cause and establish a personal connection between donors and organizations. Through in-person storytelling, we not only tap into donors' emotions, but we create memorable experiences that linger, making our cause stand out in the crowded philanthropic landscape.


Years ago, I had a visit with a donor couple who consistently donated $100 per year for many years. They had been very active at the ministry decades prior, but they didn't have any recent connection beyond their nostalgia and the $100 response to an appeal each year. While they had the capacity to give at a much higher level, they had no real motivation to do so.


Our meeting with them went very well. Dinner turned into a vibrant conversation that lasted four hours. We were able to bring them stories of impact the ministry had been making and get them excited about it. We were also able to build a level of familiarity and trust that made them comfortable entrusting larger donations to our ministry, knowing that we would use it for good.


Within a few months, they went from donating $100 annually to making a five-figure gift annually.


Overcoming Donor Skepticism: 

By offering an opportunity to address concerns about transparency head-on, face-to-face meetings provide real-time updates and answers and showcase accountability. Transparency in fund allocation and the personal commitment of fundraisers add layers of trust, dispelling skepticism and fortifying the donor-organization relationship.


One donor couple I worked with had very strong feelings about how their donated funds should be used and not used. After building a relationship with them through meetings, they cautiously increased their gift from a few hundred dollars a year to a few thousand.


They came to trust the ministry and our staff as they got to know us personally and saw that their gifts were being used well. This led them to increase their gift even more. Eventually they became six-figure donors, but this never would have happened without a personal relationship in place.


Tailoring the Message to the Donor: 

Understanding donor motivations is an art, and face-to-face meetings offer the canvas. Personalized communication and customized asks based on donors' interests and values become seamless, making the connection authentic and impactful.


The donor will tell you things in person that they would never say in a phone call or email. You also pick up tidbits about the donor and their interests when you visit them in their home or office.


The Long-Term Benefits of Face-to-Face Fundraising: 

Beyond immediate gains, face-to-face fundraising nurtures a community of supporters and fosters a sense of belonging.  It also encourages ongoing engagement. This approach lays the groundwork for future contributions by cultivating strong relationships that increase the likelihood of repeat donations and larger commitments.


Practical Considerations for Face-to-Face Fundraising:

Analyzing the financial impact of face-to-face meetings is imperative, but the long-term benefits far outweigh any initial costs. Studies have shown that, over time, the return on investment of major gift fundraising (i.e. going out and meeting donors face-to-face) far outweighs the return of any other fundraising activity.


Getting the Meetings

Now that you are committed to going out and meeting your donors, how do you successfully set up those meetings in the first place?


Petrus Development has created a free guide with sample phone scripts for securing meetings with donor prospects, and this guide is available to you for free. Click here to access this valuable resource!



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