Donor screening sessions are an excellent way to find out detailed information about prospective donors to your capital campaign. In fact, they just might be the most sure-fire method of prospect research in our book!
Of course, you’ll do your own online research. You’ll ask board members for referrals, and you’ll do your own personal networking.
But don’t forget screening sessions!
What is a Donor Screening Session?
A donor screening session is a scheduled get-together with your one or more of your current donors to ask them for information about prospective donors.
You’ll notice we called it a “get-together.”
This is not a formal meeting — in fact, that’s the last thing you want to do. Instead, your goal is to bring a small group of insiders together in an intimate setting and get them talking.
Come prepared with a short list of prospects. You’ll be asking your guests to review it with you. The list of prospects will almost always consist of your guests’ known or likely friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.
During the screening session…
- You’ll talk about each prospect’s financial capacity.
- You’ll ask for insight about the prospects’ interests and the best way to approach them.
- You’ll chat about the things going on in your prospects’ lives that might influence the decision or timing of a gift.
We love screening sessions because they’re a fantastic way to learn about prospects! Here’s just a sample of the kinds of information that can come up:
In other words, donor screening sessions are like prospecting for gold from a proven vein. And who wouldn’t love that?
Make Your Donor Screening Sessions a Success
So how can you make donor screening sessions work best for your capital campaign?
One-on-one screenings work best.
That is, you get together with a single donor and come armed with a list of people that donor knows. This method works best because people are more comfortable sharing personal information privately.
A small group can also work.
And we do mean small, as in maybe as many as five guests. Be sure that everyone you invite really knows (and likes) everyone else. The more you can do to increase their comfort, the more great information they are likely to share.
Steer clear of TMI.
Sometimes someone will slip and share Too Much Information with you about a prospect. If and when this happens, gently steer the conversation into more productive (and less embarrassing!) avenues.
Remember the fundraisers’ code of ethics!
The information you collect during donor screening sessions is just as confidential as the data in your donor files. Treat it that way, and remind everyone at the screening that what is said there should stay there. In fact, don’t write anything down that you wouldn’t want the prospects themselves to read.
Keep it social and casual.
Whether you’re meeting as a small group or one-on-one, donor screenings should always have a social aspect. Meet individual donors privately over coffee. If you’re hosting a small group, structure the event so your guests have ample opportunities to socialize and serve refreshments.
Getting the “Inside Scoop” About Prospective Donors
Donor screening sessions give you the best kind of information about prospects — the inside scoop from people who know them. Not only that, but there’s another, very important, reason we love to do love donor screening sessions…
They’re a fantastic cultivation opportunity in and of themselves!
During these meetings you’re inviting your best donors to have an intimate, inside look at the workings of your capital campaign.
You’re enlisting them to help figure out how to raise the money to fund your project. You’ve got a prime opportunity to gauge their own interests, as well as their level of commitment and excitement about your campaign.
Best of all, you’re getting all this insight without talking about their gift!
Summing it All Up
Donor screening sessions are a fantastic way to get the best information about prospective donors to your capital campaign while at the same time cultivating your current donors, all while you’re having a great time together. Talk about a win-win!