You’ve diligently sent out letters or e-mails introducing yourself and asking for a meeting. You’ve followed up with a phone call and…… you got a meeting! Congratulations! Just getting a meeting is an accomplishment in itself.
Meeting and getting to know new prospects is actually one of my favorite things to do. With a prospect list filled with new contacts, I have lots of experience with it. In fact, last week alone I had two initial contact meetings in the same day.
So why do I enjoy meeting new prospects so much? After all, seasoned donors and long-time supporters of the university are so much easier, right? They already know your programs and needs. Support is often offered without even having to “make the ask”. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy working with these donors as well. But there’s just something special about making that first connection with a prospect.
First, I really like to make people feel valued. It’s one of my core values in life and one that I try to live by in every interaction I have with all people. Many of the new prospects that I meet are alumni who often have not had very much contact with the university since they graduated. Yes, they get the invitations to events, or e-newsletters that keep them informed about current events. But, they haven’t had personal, one-on-one interactions with anyone from the university in years. Just being asked to meet and tell their story makes them feel special….and valued!
Second, I truly enjoy listening! Prospects love to tell their stories….and I love hearing them. What have they done since graduating, where has life taken them, how did they use their education, and how did their education help them achieve their goals and dreams? Depending on how long it’s been since the prospect graduated, that can be a long conversation! But, I always come away having learned the most interesting things about the university and its history. I hear funny stories about their time on campus. And, all the while I see the delight in their eyes that someone is genuinely interested!
Finally, I like to re-establish connections. The stories and experiences they so enjoy telling me, provides valuable insight into their passions and interests. And I use that to re-connect them with the university. I invite them back to campus, with the promise to personally take them on a tour to see what’s changed since they were last there. I invite them to events and work to connect them with classmates that they haven’t seen in decades. I encourage them to tell their story, and help current students at the same time, by participating in networking events. Conveying that we are proud of their accomplishments and that they are OUR alumni, is one of the highlights of my job!
If you dread those initial contact meetings, I invite you to think about all that you are giving to your prospect….a sense of value, an avenue to reconnect, and a way to show them how much you care. It can be the start of a wonderful relationship!
Share your initial contact experiences by leaving a comment below.