If you are lucky and have the opportunity to travel and meet with donors or alumni, it’s always great to have a strategy to secure meetings. So where should you begin if you’re tasked with your first donor trip?
It doesn’t matter if your trip is out-of-state or across the country. A carefully thought-out plan ensures that you set yourself up for success while you’re on the road. My strategy and timeline typically goes as follows:
Identify Prospects: 2-3 months out. Before I begin my outreach, I compile a list of alumni and/or donors to contact. For my pre-outreach strategy, my list includes alumni that have given back to certain programs or who have the capacity to make a significant contribution. Remember, all alumni are worth your time; however, you want to identify those MVP’s that will make your trip a great one.
During this ‘identifying’ stage, I also find out what my prospective donors do professionally, and if they give back to other institutions, etc.
Schedule meetings: 2-1 month out. Once I’ve pulled a list of potential people to meet with, I begin my outreach. When I travel, I email or call alumni to inform them that I’ll be in their area, and I would love to connect for a few minutes while I’m there. Try to squeeze in as many meetings as healthily possible. I’ve had trips where I might fit in 4-6 alumni meetings in one day, depending on the city I’m in. Try to get the most “bang for your buck” while on the road without burning yourself out.
Book travel and create an itinerary: 1 month -3 weeks out. Once you’ve solidified a few donor and alumni meetings, schedule your travel accommodations, along with a trip itinerary. Book hotels, flights, rental cars, etc. in advance to avoid paying top dollar at the last minute.
Then, create an itinerary or summary of each person you plan to see in order to help you prepare for each meeting. My itineraries include the following information:
- Donor/alumni name and graduation year
- Time of meeting
- Location of meeting
- Donor’s/alum’s employer and job title
- Donor’s giving history
- Distance to next meeting (via car, public transportation or walking)
Go on meetings. The moment is finally here! Meet with your people, learn about their experiences, share campus updates and ask for their support, if appropriate.
Take notes: immediately following your visit. After you leave your meeting, take notes. It’s very easy to forget important details about your conversations, especially after 3 or more meetings during the day. Usually on my way to my car, or while I’m on the train, I’ll write down notes on my phone or in a notebook so that I can recall important details that came up during our meeting.
Follow-up and send a thank you. Once you return to the office (I suggest anytime between 24-48 hours), send a note to thank your alumni and donors for their time. Emails work well, but if you’re an over-achiever, a handwritten note or personal phone call will leave an extra special impression.