How to Fundraise in-Person

Posted: May 27th, 2020 Updated: Dec 17, 2020

Fundraising is a constant balancing act both inside and outside of your organization. Are you spending too much time spreading your message and not enough time making calls to donors? Are you focused too much recruiting new prospects, but not enough on keeping your supporters engaged? It can be maddening, to say the least.


FundHero is willing to bet that you didn’t decide to take up a cause because you wanted to spend your time asking for money. But successful organizations know they need financial resources to accomplish their larger mission. You can’t do it on a bleeding heart alone.

As the saying goes, you should work smarter, not harder, and this is particularly true when it comes to your fundraising strategy. Below we will tell you where to start and provide some tips and tricks for in-person fundraising while other posts in this series will discuss how to effectively utilize call time, fundraising committees, events and digital fundraising, and fundraising by mail.

Finally, before we begin, remember that a good fundraising strategy is like baking a cake. More sugar, fewer eggs, half the flower, or double the heat while halving the baking time may make a “cake” in the most technical of terms, but it certainly won’t be something you will want to eat - the key to effective fundraising is balance in order to maximize your results.


Where to Start

We have already written about how to determine who and how you should ask for donations, so we are not going to spend much time going over this aspect again. Instead, we will just remind you that one of the most important parts of fundraising is the preparation you put in to ensure that you are successfully identifying and targeting potential donors.

Spending too much time on a donor that most likely won’t contribute is a waste of your valuable time while spending too little time to determine optimal donation amounts means that you are leaving money on the table.

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In-Person Fundraising

In-person fundraising has, by far, the highest success rate. As you might guess, this is when you sit down with a potential donor or an organization and have an in-person conversation with them about who you are, what you hope to achieve, and how a donation would be beneficial to both you and them.

To help you determine if an in-person donation is an appropriate use of your time, think of your budget and the donor triangle and reserve in-person fundraising to those who will give you the largest individual donations and those at the top of your donor triangle.

In-person fundraising is a multi-step process where the actual ask is just the final step in a long journey. As you might suspect, just walking up to a potential donor and saying “Hi, I’m doing this thing, money pwetty pwease!” isn’t going to get you very far. To this end, perhaps the most important step to land an in-person donation is identifying the official or unofficial gatekeepers around the donor who screens people who want to ask for a donation.

When you feel that the time is right, ask for a meeting with the donor. The meeting can be arranged either through the gatekeeper or with the individual/organization themselves. Play it by ear to see what type of meeting is best; some people are fine with a conversation over coffee while others prefer a formal office setting - heck, in today’s day and age, even online meetings are growing more and more acceptable - the key is to be adaptable.


The Five P’s To a Successful in-person meeting

So you have gotten the meeting - hooray! Believe it or not, most of your work is now done. Though the in-person meeting may feel nerve-racking, keep this important fact in mind: no one is going to take the time out of their busy schedule just to say that they aren’t interested in hearing your pitch. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t flub the meeting, you certainly can, but what it does mean is that you have a good shot at receiving a high-dollar donation.

With in-person meetings, you are going to want to keep five “P’s” in mind.

1) Prepare

Odds are good that you are having a meeting because you took the time to learn about the donor. Before the meeting, be sure to refresh yourself on what the donor cares about so that you know how to direct the conversation in a way that meets the donors interests and passions. Another important thing to remember is that the donor has probably done research on you too, so be prepared to talk about why you feel the way you do about issues they may or may not agree with.


2) Passion

Donors don’t give money because they like giving away money; they give because they want to support something they feel could really achieve something. If you don’t speak with passion and conviction about the things you want to address, why would you expect the potential donor to get excited for you? Speak honestly and from the heart and you will get to where you need to be.


3) Pillars

Donors don’t care about pens, they care about pillars. Similar to passion, this step is here to remind you that donors really don’t care that you will be able to buy every single volunteer a clipboard and water with their donation. Speak from the 30,000-foot level. Focus on the impact the donor's gift will provide for the community in which you serve. While highlighting the clipboards can show tangibly what you will do with the money, talk about how getting clipboards to volunteers will accomplish your mission and make the community (or world) and better place.


4) Paced

This “P” is probably the trickiest to pin down but is probably the most important. Though you and the donor know that you are there to ask for a donation, jumping right into a donation ask in the first three minutes probably won’t be effective. Similarly, if you spend your entire time just chewing the fat and then, right at the end, say “oh, by the way, I would really appreciate a donation” probably won’t do you much good either.

There is no set formula to this, so the best advice we can give is a rough outline where the first 5% of your meeting should basic introductions and background, 35% should be what you care about, 50% should be a back and forth between you and the donor, 5% should be the ask itself, and the remaining 5% should be the logistics of how to make the donation happen.


5) Praise or Pursue

After the meeting, be sure to praise your donor either privately or publicly for their donation (depending on what their preference is) and be sure to remind them how their donation is helping your cause. Praising your donor will also make it easier to go back to them for future donations.


Similarly, if you haven’t received a donation from a potential donor after an in-person meeting, be sure to follow up with them and apply an appropriate amount of pressure to make sure that the donation comes in. Although some donors like to be chased, most can simply forget to make the donation because life happens.

Curtis Haring

Curtis Haring has been involved in politics his entire adult life. Having worked both in Washington D.C. and in Utah politics, Curtis has worn many hats on various political campaigns over the years including Campaign Manager, Executive Director, Policy Advisor, and Volunteer Coordinator. Currently, Curtis, along with a group of co-hosts, discuss Utah politics and policy on the Utah Political Capitol podcast and website. Curtis lives with his wife and two adorable cats in Bountiful, Utah (and yes, his wife is adorable too).