THE template for a first-time donor meeting

Our Donor Experience partner institutions are engaging thousands of donors who have fallen through the cracks for decades. Across the board, 81% of donors in a Donor Experience Officer portfolio have never experienced a 1:1 conversation with a fundraiser before. (Source: EverTrue Analysis)

The prospects in Donor Experience Officer (DXO) portfolios are identified using EverTrue-enriched data points like giving patterns, job changes, Windfall wealth events, and social media interactions. Most often, they are SYBUNT donors who, by traditional prospecting methods, are not on MGO radars, and instead receive annual fund mass appeals a handful of times each year. 

In short, prospects in DXO portfolios are the “missing middle” of the donor pyramid. And the million-dollar question is… how do we unlock the untapped potential of this overlooked subset of donors?

The answer lies in the not-so-secret equation to fundraising success that we’ve seen proven over and over again: activity leads to meetings which lead to dollars. This is the simple but effective motto for our EverTrue Donor Experience partners across the country, and the ROI speaks for itself

Meet Sam

Sam Arthur is one of the founding fundraisers at Tufts University’s Donor Experience Program. Sam reaches out to about 40 donors each day, and about 600 donors each month. In his first twelve months as a Donor Experience Officer, Sam has held over 300 phone calls and over 200 donor meetings. Many of these meetings are the donors’ first time ever meeting 1:1 with a gift officer.

So, in short, Sam has one shot. One opportunity. One perfectly-planned interaction to seize everything Tufts has ever wanted.

And he captures it, over and over again. 

Through tons of first-time donor meetings, Sam has been honing his craft to ensure the most effective, most engaging, impact-focused meetings. We chatted with Sam to dig into the scalable structure and strategy for high-volume, highly-productive meetings with donors who have never met 1:1 with a Tufts representative.

Scheduling the meeting

Sam uses EverTrue’s proprietary outreach technology to reach out to the 1,000 prospects in his portfolio. As part of the tech-enabled cadenced outreach, he has an automatic sync with his calendar so that donors can view Sam’s availability and “Book a Meeting!” through a link embedded in his email outreach.

A common solution is Calendly, a free software that links your email outreach with your calendar. It saves hours in back-and-forths with donors to book a first meeting. Less friction means less frustration, and more focus on a positive experience for the donor.

Meeting length

It is so important that the meeting approach and request be considerate of donors’ busy lives – especially for a donor’s first meeting with a fundraiser. Sam, along with other DXOs across the country, has found that most donors are willing to book a 30-minute introductory meeting. 

This meeting length is less daunting for both parties than a full hour, forces the conversation to stay focused on impact, and still allows for substantive conversation.

The pre-intro intro

All of our Donor Experience partner institutions have embraced a video-first approach. Simply put, using video in initial outreach just works. 

(Soapbox moment: Our brains process images 60,000X faster than text. ThankView videos get 2x the open rate and 12x the click-through rate of industry emails. And adding video to cold outreach increases replies by up to 26%. We’re always up to talking more about the power of video. Reach out here.)

A best-practice used by all DXOs is for their initial email to include a brief (<30s) introductory video. So, by the time Sam hops on an intro meeting with a donor, they recognize his face, know his title, and understand why he asked for the meeting.

Meeting structure

A DXO’s first-time donor meeting is a tight 30-minutes, and there are many of them (Sam held over 150 meetings during his first 12 months as a Donor Experience Officer.)

So, the name of the game is simple, scalable, and impactful. Sam structures each of his first-time donor meetings in this way:

  • Minute 1-5: Personal introduction
  • Minute 5-15: Ask about donor’s experience at Tufts – including news or updates they have received over the years that stand out
  • Minute 15-25: Review donor impact template
  • Minute 25-30: Ask what impact the donor would like to have at Tufts, and how they would like to be communicated with, going forward.

Having a structure for content and flow of meetings makes this high volume of meetings doable, and ensures that there is qualitative information and an actionable next-step for every donor meeting.

Impact template

About half-way through the introduction meeting, Sam shares his Zoom screen and shows the donor a simple but hard-hitting slide with a snapshot of the donor’s impact history at Tufts.

The slide includes Tufts branding and typically includes these data points:

  • First gift (amount and designation)
  • Largest gift (amount and designation)
  • Most recent gift (amount and designation)
  • Gifts made in the last 10 years (amount and designation)
  • Total lifetime giving 
  • Giving society membership
  • Other specific gift impact (i.e. student scholar example, academic center update, faculty member update, etc.)

Sharing the donor impact slide has a few big benefits. It switches up the experience by bringing in an image. It presents a digestible impact snapshot. It shows that the entire lifespan of the donor matters, that Sam cares about the meeting enough to come prepared, and that the donor is making a difference at Tufts. Here’s a downloadable template for the donor impact slide.

An important note about the resources required to produce this impact slide for each introduction meeting: Sam is able to view all of these data points with a few clicks in EverTrue. Each donor impact slide takes him an average of 5 minutes to complete. 

Teeing up an ask

Using the donor impact template usually brings the meeting to the 25-minute mark. At this point, the donor and Sam have visualized the donor’s historical impact at Tufts, highlighted the funds the donor has previously supported, and presented a snapshot of the donor’s total philanthropic investment. 

In short, the impact template provides the perfect launching point for an impact-focused ask. 

You’ll recall that before sharing the impact template, Sam asks the donor about their experience at Tufts and news or updates over the years that have stood out. So, he can combine that qualitative insight with the donor’s reaction to their historic financial contributions, and then make a well-informed ask.

Given the tight timeframe (it is very important that Sam keeps the meeting within the allotted 30 minutes), Sam makes sure his solicitation is direct: “Would you consider making a donation this year?”

The "art" part

At EverTrue, we believe in automating the process to personalize the experience. And by this, we mean that we are proponents of leaning into the power of technology to automate tedious administrative tasks and free up fundraisers to focus on what they were really hired to do: build relationships with donors.

You know, the things computers can’t do, like having a heartfelt conversation about impact, legacy, passions, and the things that move a human being to make the ultimate discretionary purchase: a philanthropic investment.

In Sam’s first meeting with donors, he uses technology to power his meeting prep and structure, and it frees up his time and mental energy to focus on the “art” side of things.

Donor reactions

With over 220 phone conversations and 150 meetings in year one as a DXO, Sam has heard a lot of feedback from donors who had never experienced a 1:1 conversation with a fundraiser before.

Here are some replies Sam has received from his DXO outreach:

  • “Yes – I would like to meet virtually to talk about Tufts. Please schedule a phone call for sometime next week!”
  • “Yes – I’ve scheduled a Zoom meeting for this week using the link you provided to your calendar.”
  • “I am busy and cannot meet in the next couple weeks, but please reach out later this month. I will be free to talk then!”

And here are a few replies in response to the the giving impact template:

  • “Wow- I didn’t realize that I’ve given so much to Tufts! I am so glad I have been making such a significant impact and giving over all these years.”
  • “I knew I was giving all this time as I really appreciate what the University has done for me and I’ve wanted to pay it forward.”
  • “As a student at Tufts, I knew that Tufts had already transformed my life. This is why I started giving as a student.”
  • “I know my University education and experience has served me so well in terms of preparing me for life after school.”
  • “I thought I had been giving more, and I’d like to make an even more significant impact on the University.”
  • “Which areas need it the most right now?”

Overall, Sam reflects that preparing and sharing the donor impact template during his first-time donor meetings has elevated his first-time conversations with donors. Templatizing the structure of these meetings has allowed him to scale the volume of his meetings, ensure that every meeting provides substantive insights on the donors’ motivations and communication preferences, and lock in a next step.


After one year of cultivating a portfolio of 1,000 donors, many of whom had never experienced 1:1 outreach from a fundraiser before, here are some of Sam’s top takeaways:

  • Trust the process. Activity leads to meetings which leads to asks which ultimately leads to revenue. 
  • Keep it simple. Succinct subject lines, quick intro videos, and a specific request to meet yield the best responses from donors.
  • Lean into tech. Automate the process in the name of personalizing the experience. 
  • Show impact. Literally, show it! We created this impact template for first-time donor meetings, informed by DXOs across the country. They know best!
  • Keep building. Aim to have a purpose for and next-step from every donor meeting. Donors’ time is valuable, and so is fundraisers’! Make every meeting worth the investment from both parties, and be transparent and clear in building a relationship based on mutual benefit and positive impact. 

Download the EverTrue template for first-time donor meetings here!

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