Publications & Products
Volume 2, Issue 10

Make the Most of Your First Donor Visit

Fundraisers needn't wait 18 to 24 months before asking a potential donor for a gift, says a community college chief development officer.

Timothy Nelson, chief executive of the Midlands Technical College Foundation in Columbia, S.C., says fundraisers can accomplish more on the first donor visit than they think. He offers the follow suggestions:

  • Meet in a neutral location, such as a coffee shop, restaurant or bar. Don't meet at a place of business, such as an office or conference room.
  • Don't bring any materials to the meeting, and don't take notes during the meeting.
  • Have a casual conversation and find commonality with the donor. Discover as much about the donor as possible. Also, let the donor get to know and feel comfortable with you.

Nelson says fundraisers don't need to make a solicitation on this first visit. However, they should determine by the end of it if the donor wishes to meet again and if the donor has the giving capacity to make a follow-up visit an effective use of the fundraiser's time.

"It's no secret to the donor on the first visit why you're there," he says. "The donor will only agree to come back and see you again if they have an interest in giving. You've got to respect that. You can't keep badgering people."

Nelson uses this tactic with donors who have the potential to make major gifts—those of $25,000 or greater. He says that a third of the donor prospects he meets agree to a second visit and that a fourth of all those first-time prospects eventually make a gift—typically within six months.

"The lion's share of money being given to education goes to four-year institutions," he says. "And some community colleges have the attitude that people just won't give money to them. We need to shift the paradigm, and community colleges need to consider that they've made a difference in the lives of their alumni and that they might want to give back."

Nelson will discuss more strategies for how to set up and conduct a first meeting with a potential donor in a CASE webinar on May 7.

Please share your questions and comments with Marc Westenburg via email at or +1 202 478 5570.

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This article is from the April 2013 issue of the Community College Advancement News.



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Making the Most of Your First Donor Visit
May 7, 2013

Conference for Community College Advancement
Oct. 2-4, 2013
San Diego, Calif.

All CASE Resources for Community Colleges