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How to Cultivate the Major Players at a Non-Profit

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Cultivate the Major Players at a Non-Profit

Many professionals seeking to build a High Net Worth clientele see getting involved with local non-profits as a way to run with the big dogs.  You want prospects with significant assets.  Philanthropists have money to give away.  It makes sense.  You are also giving back to the community.  But how is it done?

How Not to Do It

You are a financial advisor, private banker, financial planner or insurance agent.   You have a “take action” personality.  Upon joining the local museum, you attend a reception or two.  Seeing the Executive Director across the room, you walk over, introduce yourself, shake hands and say: “I’m a financial advisor.  Can I handle the museum’s endowment?”  Awkward.

Here’s the problem:  Even if you are the most tactful person on the planet, someone else in your profession has made that mistake right here at this institution, before you arrived!  When you introduce yourself, the little word balloon above their head reads:  “Oh no!  Another pushy financial advisor.”  You are battling headwinds already.

How to Do It

Your cultivating of HNW individuals at your cultural institution is a long term process.

1. Join, write checks, attend events. Most people in sales know a major part of success is getting on the right lists.  Sales managers know it makes sense to give resources to people who work hard and smart.  In the non-profit setting (let’s assume it’s a museum) you want to be seen as a donor and an active member.  You are low key.

2. Meet people. Walking around your museum’s opening reception, you will probably see 100+ people.  You sense who is engaged in conversation and who is open to talking.  Set a goal of meeting six new people each time you attend one of these events.  If you attend monthly, after 12 months you’ve met 72 people!  You also say hello and catch up with people in the room you met previously.  People will see you are a low key, nice person with an outgoing personality.

3. Know who you want to meet. Not everyone meets your ideal client profile for HNW individuals.  That’s fine.  They are nice people anyway.  The major donors and community leaders are probably board members too.  They are in the crowd somewhere.  Keep an eye out for names, if people are wearing badges.  By mingling and not behaving like a heat seeking missile, you will be racking up points in your favor.

4. Cultivate the staff. Most larger non-profits have a paid professional staff.  You want to meet the membership director and the development director.  They are gatekeepers.  They know everyone.  Why will they take an interest in you?  They will check you out after the first encounter.  Based on your profession, they will probably see you as a potential donor.  If not, they will have an eye on your firm.

5. Ask for introductions. Remember those philanthropists?  The folks you’ve been wanting to meet?  Your new friends in membership and development know who they are.  Ask for an introduction.  “Is she here?  I would like to meet her.”  Don’t mention the word “prospect.”  Don’t mention business at all!  You might mention:  “She supports so many good causes here in town.  You can’t open the paper without hearing about something she’s endowed.  I would like to thank her for what she does for the community.”  You should get your introduction.  Does your membership friend know why you want to meet this person?  Of course!  You must ask properly.

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6. Meet more staff. Your membership and development buddies can introduce you to the museum’s publicity director, their on staff PR person.  Why?  Because they have the ability to get you into photos!  When the local paper runs event photos, their photographer covers several events a night.  They are in and out or they work with pictures the museum’s PR people provide.  If you are well dressed and presentable, your new PR friend may get you into photos.  “C’mon over here!  Stand next to these folks…”  You help reinforce the institution’s image.  They are likely printing you name and possibly, your professional affiliation.

7. Go a little deeper. You write more checks.  Maybe you volunteer if they have opportunities.  You raise your visibility.  Now, when you walk into a reception, you see several familiar faces.  You say hello.  Others come to you.  You are on a first name basis with your friends on the staff.  Others on the staff are starting to wonder about you.  They do a little research.  They see you write checks.  You might have joined at something above the minimum membership level.

8. The Executive Director wants to meet you. OK, it’s a bit of a stretch.  They are having a staff meeting, wondering where funding for some of next year’s exhibitions will come from.  Since you’ve been writing checks and work for a prominent firm, they see either you or your firm as potential donors.  The Executive Director asks around the table: “Who is that guy?  Oh, he’s that guy that joined a year ago.  He‘s a regular at events.  Look, he supported the annual fund too.  I think I’d like to meet him.  Setup a meeting.”  Lunch follows.

9. You want to meet the Executive Director. This is the more likely outcome.  You initiate the request to meet the Executive Director by asking your membership or development friends for an introduction.  They get to work in the background.  You’ve got those headwinds “Broker looking for business.” and “The last one was ghastly!”  Your background wins out.  You get a meeting.  No free lunch.

Tell them why you like the institution.  Talk about what you’ve done, events you attended.  Ask questions they will enjoy answering: “What are the upcoming shows?” and “What are the strengths in your collection?”

Ask for their advice.  You want to become more involved.  You would also like to get more established in the community.  You want to raise your visibility.  What would they suggest you do?

This might lead to a request for money.  They might want help approaching your firm’s charitable foundation.  It might lead to a volunteer role on a committee.  Mission accomplished.  You are in.

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