How to Prepare for the First Meeting with a Prospect

Mar 03, 2023


The first meeting is coming up and you need to prepare. When going into the first meeting, you should review any prospect research that has been provided or that you conducted to understand what the prospects giving looks like to other organizations. You also want to know what their giving is to your organization. Be familiar with when their last gift was and the amount. What does their lifetime giving look like and when did they make their first gift. Also, look for interesting milestones. Have they given to the organization for 12 consecutive years? Additionally, what have they supported? Have they made multiple gifts to only one fund or have they given mostly unrestricted? Or is there no consistency in their giving – they make gifts to multiple funds. By looking at what they’ve earmarked their gifts for, you can start to see what they care about. Make sure to download the first-meeting checklist below to help you prepare. 

Once you understand their giving, there are two important things to do before the meeting:

  • Brush up on what’s happening in the program areas that they support. Is there any kind of update you can give them? Is something interesting happening? Pick up the phone or walk over to that department and let them know you’re meeting with a donor who cares about their program. Ask them what their needs are and if they have anything they’d like you to share with the donor. Be prepared to give an update to the donor at the first meeting. Now, if you can’t figure out what your donor’s passion area is, this first meeting is the perfect opportunity to investigate. If the prospect has always made unrestricted gifts or no gifts to your organization, make sure you have an elevator speech prepared for the programs you offer. You’ll see what piques their interest. You might even put a few brochures in your bag and give them the one that resonates the most with the prospect.
  • The second thing that needs to occur is that you need to prepare some questions to ask. This is not an interview, and you don’t want to whip out your questions and start taking notes like a reporter. These are questions you keep in your back pocket as conversation starters. This first meeting is a fact-finding mission to learn about the donor, what they care about, and agree to next steps. Once you sit down and have your opening pleasantries, it’s the time to ask open ended questions and learn about your donor. Here are some of my favorite questions: Matt and Debra, you are such loyal donors. What initially inspired you to give to us and what keeps you giving to us? You will learn a lot from that answer! Another good one is “what is your favorite or most memorable experience with the organization?” These questions will essentially give you the roadmap of how to further cultivate them and possibly how and what to solicit them for when it comes time for that.

Many times in my career, in that first meeting, people would ask me – are you going to ask me for money? And I would answer it very truthfully – it’s no secret why you’re there: Gordon, I’m not going to ask you today, but I would like to come back to you at some point when we know each other a little better and the right programmatic opportunity presents itself. First and foremost, I am here to thank you for your previous gifts and keep you informed. 

This first meeting is to get to know the prospect and fill them in on any relevant things at the organization. And, to set up the next encounter. Always agree to next steps. This could be asking if you could invite them to an upcoming event, or asking if you could follow up in a couple weeks with another update, or seeing if they will accompany you on a site visit. Whatever it is, agree on next steps and then follow through.

Learn more about The Donor Cultivation Method Masterclass



About Mary Hackett

Mary Hackett is a vibrant and engaging powerhouse in the world of major gift expertise, with a sparkling career steeped in the intricacies of fundraising operations. Residing in the picturesque town of Bend, Oregon, Mary's professional journey is as lively and inspiring as her scenic surroundings. Her extensive experience in fundraising is marked by a unique blend of strategic insight and a contagious enthusiasm that has consistently propelled organizations to new heights of success. With a knack for connecting with people and a deep understanding of the nuances of philanthropy, Mary has become a sought-after expert in her field. Her approach to fundraising is not just about meeting targets; it's about building relationships, weaving stories, and creating impactful experiences that resonate with donors and communities alike. In Mary's world, every fundraising campaign is an adventure, filled with opportunities to make a meaningful difference while having a whole lot of fun along the way. Want to work with Mary? 

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