Recently, an Executive Director asked me if he should bring his Chief Development Officer, an accomplished, seasoned fundraiser, with him on first visits with new prospective partners or wait until he’s established a relationship first and then introduce her. He said he sees the pros and cons to both approaches.
My answer, while perhaps not as definitive as he’d hoped for, directed him to begin at the end: with the goal. The goal is for all of your donors to be full partners with both you, the Executive Director, AND your CDO.
So given that, under what scenario will you be able to most quickly develop an authentic partnership like this? How you achieve that must be thought through on a case by case basis and developed with your own style and comfort level.
I, for example, am almost always more effective when I go on a first visit alone, where I can more deeply and genuinely connect with the other person (in a previous blog: this first visit is more effective when you don’t meet in an office). I can then naturally, as a next step, weave the Executive Director and/or other key Board members into the relationship. At the same time, there have been many instances in my career where the Executive Director had a solo meeting first and introduced me into the equation as a follow-up step or the two of us will go together for the first meeting. There is no one right answer, except to be aware of how you are setting the conditions for partnerships to fully blossom with each member of the team. I understand that Bain Consulting actually conducts an in-house strategy session prior to taking any first meeting to determine who is the right person or people to meet with their new prospect. It’s that important.
One important caveat: if you are introducing your CDO after a first-meeting, the key to successfully passing this baton, of course, is that he/she should not be introduced as “the money person,” but as a full partner on this journey. He/she must be positioned as a peer, who is equally passionate about your shared commitment to the project and who has unique and vital dimensions of the partnership equation to share.
So as with this question and all others, keep your goal clearly in mind and the right answer for what to do in any situation always presents itself.