Site Visits: Karen’s Top Dozen Tips on Hosting Donors

How can you prepare for a site visit of a grant or other donors to your non-profit facility? Who should be on hand? What can you share to enhance the conversation and increase your chances of receiving the funding? What, if anything, would be a helpful follow-up to the visit? Here, are a dozen tips to create gracious and productive visits.

  1. Schedule the visit at the end of a peak period so as your visitors arrive they gain a sense of the need for your operations.
  2. Prior to the visit, scan your facility. While you probably don’t mind the messy magazine pile or scuff-marks, you visitor will notice them just when they are forming their initial impressions.
  3. Pay particular attention to the entrance area. Spruce and clean up. “A messy and disorganized office may say to people who work there they are hard working and mission focused, but it may tell visitors that the organization is sloppy and inattentive to details,” write Shirley Sagawa and Deborah Jospin in The Charismatic Organization.
  4. Post a welcome sign on the front door—an idea from City Year. “Your nonprofit’s name welcomes Bob and Reta.”
  5. Have on-hand several customers, who would be on site anyway, prepared to answer questions about how your services help them.
  6. Review drafts of any written proposals. Even though you wrote the request months ago, your visitors might review them after they park for the appointment. Be familiar with the details.
  7. Provide two or three brief factual “good news” updates either to hand to your visitors or share during their visit, i.e., recent grants, donations or other new funding expected to help the project or your non-profit organization, plus updates on customers.
  8. Prepare at least one key success story about someone your non-profit organization has helped to share. Which story might you tell? Use the stories to speak to the heart of your visitors.
  9. Display your excellence. Consider bulletin boards or display cases with customer appreciation letters and awards. Visit a dollar store to purchase a set of matching frames to create a low-cost wall display of thank-you notes.
  10. Hospitality. Be ready to offer water, coffee, directions to the restrooms, a place for your visitor to sit and other simple courtesies. This hospitality reflects how you serve your customers. (Providing a lunch is unnecessary, however, unless you are food service group in which case extend the lunch or snack invitation when you schedule the visit.)
  11. Use your words and actions to portray your intent to continue your services long-term. This will help your visitors to understand their gift as an investment. Too many organizations seek to create urgency and instead give the impression that if a specific request is not funded they will close their doors—suggesting insolvency. To create urgency, share how the gift will help to solidify and uplift the investments others are making.
  12. Request the names and address of the visitors. Send a thank you note for their time and interest. Add them to your mailing list.
  13. Lucky 13. Know Something About Them. Be ready to answer: “Tell us what you know about the founders of this foundation and this foundation’s role in the community.”

With these thirteen steps you can enhance your chance of creating a successful on-site visit and increase your chances of obtaining funding now and in the years to come.

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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