The one-on-one visit is the foundation on which all gift officers build sustainable relationships with donors. Visits can jumpstart a relationship between a donor and a nonprofit or bring current engagement to new levels. They also allow a fundraiser to gain valuable insight into a donor’s motivations, aspirations, and outlook–which can be more difficult to discern via phone or email.
With that said, arranging a day of visits in a specific geographic area can be challenging. A day packed with five consecutive visits, for example, may require outreach to over 25 donors. This is why organizing and segmenting your communications is critical.
There are three types of visits to plan for when you start your travel outreach: anchor visits, continuity visits, and exploratory visits.
1. Anchor Visits
Your first order of business is to determine the people you most want to meet with in a given area; these are your anchor visits. The reasons for these visits can range from qualification to solicitation, but the common thread is their potential to positively impact your organization. These types of meetings should help you take a vital step in securing a donor’s interest in helping your nonprofit fulfill its mission.
Anchor visits are the reason to choose a certain day or week for your travel. Only when you’ve scheduled an anchor visit should you start planning the rest of your trip.
If you try to schedule a meeting with one of these individuals later in the process, you may find that they can only meet at a time that is already booked on your calendar. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if the donor is consistently busy and difficult to pin down. Avoid this scheduling snafu by making your anchor visits first.
2. Continuity Visits
Once your anchor visits are in place, you can start scheduling your continuity visits—meetings with donors with whom you’ve had previous communication. The majority of your visits are likely to fall into this category. Continuity visits are much less urgent than anchor visits, but they are still critical for proper cultivation and stewardship.
In this phase, segmenting your donor list—and keeping track of your outreach—is especially important. You may be reaching out to dozens of people, and it can be difficult to keep everything straight.
Example of a travel list in EverTrue
A good first step to is to decide which 10-15 people you want to contact first. Once you call and email them several times, you can move onto your next segment of donors. This will help you keep track of ongoing conversations and ensure that you don’t overbook your calendar.
It’s also important to keep a log of all your communications so you can be as effective and efficient as possible. You’ll have donors who want you to contact them the week of your trip, donors who like to schedule meetings months in advance, and donors who may not know what their calendar looks like until the day before. For donors who fall into the latter group, it’s important to set a reminder for yourself so you don’t accidentally overlook them.
3. Exploratory Visits
If you’ve planned the majority of your trip but you still have some openings in your schedule, it’s helpful to arrange a few exploratory visits. These meetings are with individuals who are new to your organization and may not have received personal outreach in the past.
Although exploratory visits shouldn’t take priority in your planning, they’re certainly necessary for donor cultivation and engagement. I’d recommend scheduling these the week right before your trip to ensure that you’ve exhausted your potential continuity visits.
Ultimately, the goals of your travel planning are threefold: Make your trip as impactful as possible, segment your communications effectively, and make each day as seamless as you can. Attaining success in all three of these areas requires considerable effort and a little bit of luck. With the proper planning, you’ll be able to maximize your donor’s impact and enjoyment by telling them, in person, exactly what their support means to your organization.
Check out this video to learn how EverTrue for Gift Officers can help you segment donors and plan your travel outreach.
Matt Chittim is a major gifts officer at Providence College, where he works with alumni and parents in Metro New York and southern New England. Matt spends his non-working hours chasing after his two young kids, running, and following New England sports. You can follow Matt on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.