The Discovery Meeting: Taking a Voyage into the Unknown

The Discovery Meeting: Taking a Voyage into the Unknown

Rory Green | 17 April 2015

The fourth instalment for the Institute of Fundraising Scotland’s month-long blog series on Major Gifts, by Rory Green, aka Fundraiser Grrl.

So, you’ve done it. You’ve found a great potential donor and you’ve successfully scheduled a meeting. This is the part where many fundraisers get nervous – because they think they need to finish that meeting with a cheque in hand. But the truth is you do not need to close a gift on the first meeting with a donor. Or even the second or third. Major gifts are a process that takes time.

The first meeting – the ‘discovery meeting’ – has one goal: learn enough about the donor to plan next steps.  That’s all! You don’t need to close a gift. You don’t need to make an ask. You don’t need to learn everything about a donor and tell them everything about your charity. You just need to learn enough to keep the conversation going in the future.


1.    Listen Really Well: In this meeting, you should be having a two-way conversation, you aren’t giving a lecture. Don’t do all of the talking! So to do that, here are some simple steps to follow to have a great discovery meeting:

2.    Ask Great Questions: Be curious and ask open ended questions that can start a conversation. Be sure to probe answers an ask things like “tell me more about that” to get below the surface. Here are some great questions to ask:

What do you know about our cause?

What part of our charity’s work do you find the most interesting/inspiring?

Who set an example of generosity for you?

How does your family give to the community?

What is the best gift you have ever given or received?

What are you most proud about?

How does your support of our charity compare with other organisations?

What must never change about us?

What do you hope we accomplish in fifty years?

What must change so we can accomplish that? What needs to stay the same?

Where do you volunteer?

Hypothetically, if you were to win the lottery and have an abundance of spare time & resources, how would you spend your time?

How do you want to be remembered?

What do you want to teach your children?

3.    Keep It Simple: Your non-profit probably does lots of great things, but you don’t need to cover every single thing in the first meeting. You’ll have lots of time to deepen your prospect’s understanding of your organisation over time – but if you throw too much at them all at once they will stop listening.

4.    Look for a Spark: Pay attention to their body language. When do they perk up, and start talking with passion? Those are the areas you want to focus on. Maybe it’s feeding the poor, or teaching philanthropy to their children, or solving complicated problems that gets them excited – whatever it is, use those spark moments to determine your next steps.

 So, once you’ve asked some great questions, and listened to what your prospect has to say, and uncovered some passions – your next

A tour of your programmes in action goal is to plan next steps. Here are some examples:

  • Lunch with the CEO, Vice President, project staff or research
  • Invitation to an event
  • Send more information on a specific topic
  • … and more!


The point is to keep the relationship moving forward and to engage them more deeply around an area or project, eventually leading to a gift. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to engage!










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