[Question Marc] Conversation starters for cold calls

Image of a person with a question mark on a chalkboardI recently received this question from a client:

I have a question for you. I have a list of wealthy prospects, many have given our hospice small dollar amounts thru memorials. My intent is to build a relationship with them, can you give me an example of what to say to get that first visit?

My answer

Getting the first visit is tricky. At least in our minds. Often it's just a matter of calling and saying:
"Hi ____. This is _____ from ______. We're honored by your gift to us last fall and are thanking our donors by taking them out to coffee. Would your schedule allow for us to meet next week?"

Two options

  1. If you really need to meet with them, then this phone call is 100% about setting up the appointment. So tell them you have something to show them (an annual report, blueprints of construction, a video thank you from families helped).

  2. If getting to know them is more important than a face-to-face meeting, go ahead and visit right then and there on the phone. They'll let you know if it's not a good time.

I'm a huge fan of asking how they first came to donate to your hospice. Those usually spark wonderful stories, especially for hospice donors.

Then try to have a tour or event you can invite them too. Since these are wealthy prospects, a small gathering with the CEO would be appropriate. And easy to manage, you wouldn't need more than some coffee and cookies.

Other questions I find enjoyable in face-to-face meetings are:

  • What do you do when you're not at ____ [Better used when meeting at a social gathering than at a 1-on-1 meeting.]
    and
  • How did you get into the X business/hobby

Both honor the person you're dealing with.

What would you have said?

Tell us in the comments how you get the first visit with major gift prospects. Does you first visit have to be face-to-face or can it be over the phone?

About Marc Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the author of Ask Without Fear!, director of The Nonprofit Academy, and founder of FundraisingCoach.com. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family!

Follow him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.

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