Making a Contract

The Benefits of Mapping Donor Meetings

Before you meet with a prospect, one of the best things you can do is to create a map of the meeting. It's a key ingredient in making your interaction mutually beneficial and productive. Why? Because it provides the basis for what training company Sandler Training calls the "up-front contract." (Sandler Training operates in the corporate/for-profit world. We had the opportunity to implement the up-front contract strategy several years ago, and it has proved to be a singularly effective tool for building high-quality relationships with potential donors.) 

The Up-front Contract 

Before we get into the details, let's clarify what's meant by the word "contract." Oftentimes, the word is used to signify a formal agreement in which we dot all the ‘I’s’ and cross all the ‘T’s’. And certainly there will be times when that high level of detail is exactly what is called for. But in a broader sense, there are times when the contract is part of a much broader conversation with donors, which is what "up-front contract" signifies. By whatever means you accomplish establishing this second type of up-front contract relationship with a donor, it should--as the name implies--happen early in your time together. Indeed, it can be accomplished as early as the conversation about making an appointment with the donor. As a gift officer, it's your responsibility to lead the discussion in that direction.  

We've found that the proper use of an up-front contract accomplishes the following:

  • Helps assure all parties understand the reason for the interaction.
  • Allows for clarification of the position of all parties early in the conversation. (Even when a prospect tells you, "No," it's important to keep in mind that an emphatic no makes for a successful interaction, because it's a definite response. The key is not wasting half the day in getting to the "no.")
  • May help raise the level of curiosity of the prospective donor.
  • Allows you to gauge the time of your conversation to assure you at least can cover the most salient points of the meeting.
  • Helps assure there is a mutual expected outcome to your time together.

A hypothetical for your consideration: 

You are in a meeting with a prospect who is a physician in her office. When you made the appointment through an administrative assistant, you inquired how long the appointment was scheduled for, and were told it was to be for 20 minutes. When you meet with the doctor, as part of the contract, you confirm up front that you have 20 minutes. 

The meeting is going really well. As the 20-minute mark approaches, the physician has made no move to end the conversation. You need to make a decision: Will you end the conversation at the 20-minute mark, or are you pleased at the prospect of extra time, and decide to stay as long as possible and just let things naturally take their course? 

We advocate that you bring the conversation to a close at the 20-minute mark. Here are some reasons for doing so:

  1. It shows you respect her time.
  2. You asked for 20 minutes and you got 20 minutes.
  3. If you prepared properly, you accomplished your objectives in the time that was allocated.

Ending on time when things are going well may well give you a reason to return--or, even better, to meet again but in a more relaxed setting.

All your actions need to be beneficial to both parties. By taking your leave at the appropriate time, you allow the doctor to remain on her schedule. By not cutting into her very busy schedule, you will make her feel appreciated.

It's important to establish and reiterate the up-front contract:

  • In your initial inquiry requesting an appointment
  • On the phone when you make the appointment
  • In your note confirming the appointment
  • When you confirm the appointment the day before it is scheduled
  • Early in your face-to-face time

When looking to establish an up-front contract with a prospective donor, please don’t use the oh-so-typical "I’m going to be in the area, may I stop by and meet you?" Using vague language does nothing to advance the relationship, and what you're doing is too important to minimize your work. 

Here are a few examples of the kind of introductory language that can be effective in establishing an up-front contract:

  • "I’d like to visit you to discuss . . ." 
  • "Would you be willing to have a conversation about . . ."
  • "I understand we have 30 minutes together and in that time I’d like to share . . ." (even though you are going to listen more than you will talk)
  • "You mentioned that ________ is important to you. I’d like to meet with you to learn about that in more detail."
  • "In order to make out time together next Wednesday at 11:00 as effective as possible, would be kind enough to think about . . ."
  • "When we meet next week I’d like to be certain we touch on ______."