I had the opportunity the other day to have a nice conversation with a well known, West Michigan donor (let’s call him Mr. Jackson).  Mr. Jackson has made millions in charitable gifts throughout the region and I was interested in how he perceived area fundraisers.  As we spoke, there were several key points Mr. Jackson made that I thought should be shared with those in the fundraising profession.  Here’s what he had to say:

1.  Before you come visit me, make sure you know my interests.  Do a little research, Google me, talk to those who know me, and find out what I like and don’t like to fund.  If your organization isn’t in my area of interest, don’t waste my time.

2.  Be a good listener.  I’m usually open to hearing about nonprofits in our area, but I quickly know if I want to learn more or if I’m going to pass.  If I tell you that your particular organization isn’t a high priority for me, thank me for my time, end the meeting, and focus your efforts on other donors.  Above all, don’t think you can pressure me into giving.  That never works.

3.  Be comfortable and conversational in your presentation.  Be prepared to answer tough questions I may have and back up your claims with evidence.

4.  Tell me about your successes–particularly raising money.  Let me know who else supports your cause.  Chances are good that I know and respect some of them.

5.  Bring along print materials–and make sure they are short and simple.

6.  If I am interested in your organization and offer a gift, make sure to send me a letter with a synopsis of our conversation, the size of the gift we discussed, and how the money will be used.  This is helpful for my family and business staff, who are all involved in my gifting decisions to some degree.

7.  Do not send me gifts.  When I make a donation, send a simple thank you and a gift acknowledgment receipt.  Some donors like recognition around their giving, but I don’t.  Know your donor.