Yesterday I gave a presentation in Arlington County on this topic. We had a great mixture of development professionals and program staff from organizations in DC and Virginia. The goal of the program was to address how all staff members should embrace the roles they play in a successful fundraising effort.
Site visits are a great way to get the whole staff involved. Lots of people play a part, from the receptionist to the program staff to management. It’s important to take the time to carefully plan out the various elements of an upcoming site visit. Staff members need to be briefed and understand what’s at stake.
Key preparation items include being clear about the visit’s schedule, the message you hope to get across to the visitor and what follow-up tactics you plan to employ. It’s also a great time to clean up the office – nothing makes a visitor feel more welcome than when you’ve taken the time to show pride in your organization.
As part of our session yesterday, I had participants design a “Brown Bag Luncheon” on development. The set-up was the executive director had asked each department to lead a presentation so that everyone could better understand the work of their colleagues. One of the suggested topics was preparing for a site visit, and the group came up with some excellent ideas. Here’s their outline for a 30-minute lunch-time presentation:
- Explain why you’re having the site visit; discuss who is coming (donor, media, government representatives, etc.). Explain what the visitors are going to want to see.
- Talk about why the staff is so important to the site visit – Staff members are the ones who do the work; they are the closest to the organization’s programs.
- Discuss how to handle the site visit – Be friendly; think in advance about what you’re going to say; involve the visitor in a conversation, thank them for coming, etc. Reinforce that staff members will get some help in doing this, such as training or scripts.
- Address the follow-up steps – How will you thank the visitor for coming. Thank you correspondence can refer back to a meaningful exchange they might have had with a member of the staff.
Other ideas raised by program participants when I presented this session back in the summer included:
- Talk about the “spiel” or “elevator speech” that staff members can use, it’s part of helping them to be prepared.
- Try some role-playing exercises. What will you say when the visitor stops by your cubicle?
- Talk about the “Don’ts” not just the “Dos” for example, they don’t have to ask for a gift, and they don’t need to overdo it.
- Discuss how you might involve volunteers and past program participants in the visit.
- At the end, describe how this discussion of site visit preparation is in fact a “microcosm” of the way that staff members can support all of fundraising throughout the year.
Do you have a story of a good site visit? If your organization addresses a particularly sensitive subject or if client confidentiality is a big issue for you, how have you creatively approached this topic?