If you are at the start of your capital campaign, you will probably find yourself sifting through names and names of potential prospects.
You’ll be trying to figure out whether these individuals might be prospects for a larger campaign gift.
Many of our Pre-Campaign Coaching clients are working their way through the Discovery Process well in advance of their campaign.
They are making visits with potential donors — some of whom they know — and some they don’t know.
Making Discovery Visits is a frequent topic on our coaching calls. So I am sharing this outline on how to make a successful in-person Discovery Call.
Don’t Present… DISCOVER!
Your objective of early meetings with your donors is NOT to make a presentation about your organization. Your job is to find out as much as possible about your prospects.
Now, this may sound confusing, and it’s certainly not intuitive. But Discovery Calls are not the time to be presenting. They are the time to be engaging your donors in discussions.
Sophisticated major gift donors do not want to be presented to. They want to talk with you and to you. They are used to doing most of the talking. And they like it!
And this is perfect, because when they can do the talking, then you can do the discovery!
But if you’re doing the talking, then you won’t discover a thing. And you’ll be no wiser about them that when you walked in the door.
Five Steps in a Smart, Successful Discovery Call
1. As soon as you walk in, make small talk.
Focus on something about the donor. The small talk is not about YOU — it’s about her!
Try asking her a question about a memento in her home or office. That will get the conversation going.
Small talk gives you a chance to relax and collect yourself, while she is talking.
2. Reestablish their connection with your organization.
Talk about their history or their recent experience with your organization.
- “You attended our reunion last year, didn’t you?”
- “Your father was very involved wasn’t he?”
- “How long ago did you serve on our board?”
- “I understand you helped get our organization off the ground!”
3. Go deeper into their story.
See if you can get them talking about why or how they came to be involved. The most important thing you say in the entire meeting is:
- “I’d love to know how you came to be involved.”
- “I’d love to hear your story.”
You can find out TONS by asking question after question about their previous involvement.
4. Explore their interest in your cause.
This is when you can start turning the conversation over to your organization. Bring up different aspects about your work and let them react.
- “There are so many hungry kids we can’t reach. We’re trying to explore new ways to reach them.”
- “We are really emphasizing our work with _____ these days.”
- “Our biggest challenge this year is serving the _____ population.”
- “It’s been amazing the demand we have seen in _____ area.”
Watch to see how they react. Say one sentence and see if they have something to say about the topic. If your prospect is interested in the area you are bringing up, he or she will start talking to you about their ideas.
4a. If you don’t know them well, try this:
If they are not really connected to your organization, it’s harder. You’d still try to talk about THEM.
- “Everyone says that you are a really knowledgeable community leader — what are you involved in?”
- “I understand that you are xxx or yyy in your profession or our community…” And see if you can get them talking about that.
- “You have been mentioned by several folks as an expert in this area…”
- “Several people have said that I simply must meet you and hear your perspective…”
5. Find a follow-up next step.
Another important objective is to emerge from the meeting with a next step for follow-up.
Why is this important?
You always, always want to have a reason to get back in touch with your prospect.
If you leave the meeting having answered all of your prospects questions perfectly, then you leave with no plan.
It’s just fine when you don’t have the answer! Instead of being embarrassed about it, be glad.
You’ll be able to circle back with your prospect with the answer. Then you can keep the ball rolling and develop a friendly relationship with your prospect.
Remember these three key objectives for your Discovery Call:
1. Establish a friendly relationship with the prospect.
2. Find out their hot buttons or interest areas.
3. Emerge with a next step or follow plan.
Discovery Calls are FUN! They are low stress. They are friendly.
So enjoy them!
Interested in our capital campaign coaching? We focus on the very beginning planning stages before your feasibility study.
We’ll give you your own personal capital campaign planning coach to help you lay the groundwork with your leadership, prospects, and your board.