As you know, MGOs need to be face to face with their donors as much as possible.  We really try to get our MGOs out meeting donors about 50% of their time.  While some MGOs have the luxury of having most of their caseload nearby, many MGOs are traveling all over the country.
Today I want to help you make those trips more successful and fun.  I’m breaking these tips into three simple categories: 1) before the trip, 2) during the trip, and 3) after the trip.  I’m drawing from my own experience as a seasoned traveler and from the experiences Richard and I have had managing MGOs for our clients.
Now, I want to be clear.  This post is NOT about how to prepare for the actual solicitation, IF that is the reason for the face-to-face visit.  This is about how best to prepare for, and follow up with, your donors.  If you want to know how to prepare and ask a donor for a gift, go here and here, and you’ll find a ton of information.
Pre-Trip Planning

  1. Create a trip plan – With every donor you are visiting, you’ll need to create a spreadsheet that outlines the purpose or objective for the trip, whether it is  purely for cultivation or solicitation, what the donor’s previous giving has been, and what the desired outcome is.  This will help your manager justify the trip to senior management.  Additionally, all anticipated costs for the trip need to be budgeted and put into your trip plan.
  2. Secure meetings at least a month in advance with donors—They are busy.
  3. Book flights at least 21 days in advance to get the best rates.
  4. When booking a hotel, I use ALL THE TIME.  Get a 3.5 star and above hotel in the area you will be staying and you will not be disappointed.  But, there are plenty of great websites to book hotels that can save you money.
  5. Don’t schedule a meeting anywhere near the time you land if you are flying. If you are delayed, you’ll have to cancel the meeting and that’s a problem with busy donors.  Try to fly in the night before and start fresh in the morning if at all possible.
  6. Understand who your donor is and dress appropriately.  For example, if your donor owns a large farm, wearing a three-piece suit isn’t appropriate.  And jeans won’t work in a boardroom.  Know your audience.
  7. Know something about the area you are visiting.  Before the visit, find out about the town or city where the donor resides.  Donors are proud of where they live.  Be knowledgeable about it.
  8. A week before your scheduled meeting, reconfirm with the donor. I’ve heard horror stories about an MGO knocking on the door of a donor and the donor has completely forgotten she was coming.
  9. Make sure you have all the documents for the meeting.  Go over the trip plan and double-check that you have everything: donor notes, giving history, solicitation plan, program materials and gifts.
  10. Pack way ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it in the morning or right before you have to leave for the airport.  Pack an extra set of clothes just in case.  Believe me, I’ve seen things you DO NOT want to see. Take only a carry-on.  Do NOT check your baggage.  You will need clothes for the next day, and if your luggage is lost, so are you.  If my wife, who is a notorious over-packer, can do a 12-day trip with one carry on piece of luggage… so can you.
  11. Double-check your reservations (hotel, car) and print out your boarding pass 24 hours in advance or make sure you download it on your smart-phone.
  12. Make sure you have your laptop and cell phone charged so you can work on the plane.
  13. Get to the airport in plenty of time.  How do you tell your donor you can’t meet because you didn’t make the flight in time?  No good.  If you are NOT a frequent flyer, get there 2 hours before the flight.  Why risk it?

During Trip

  1. Do NOT drink alcohol in excess on the plane or the night before your meetings.  You want to feel your best.  In fact, it’s best not to drink at all.  Again, I have stories…
  2. Remember you’re still working when on a trip.  Responding to e-mails and calls is a must.  I’ve seen people totally lose their minds on a business trip, thinking they’re at Disneyworld on vacation.
  3. The night before the meeting, make sure you have mapped out the location of the donor meeting.  Don’t wait until you get in the car the next morning.  You CANNOT be late for a meeting with a donor.  Allow 30 minutes extra into your drive time.
  4. After your donor meeting, have personal note cards with you so you can write a thank you note and mail it from there.  Make sure you have stamps with you.
  5. Fill in the “outcome” of your trip report in great detail.  You will find out a ton of information about your donor when you see them face to face.  Make sure you record all that into the database and your trip report immediately after the visit when it’s all fresh in your mind.


  1. If you are able to plan ahead and IF you have the time, add on a day or weekend (at your expense) to enjoy a new part of the country.  I’ve known MGOs who’ve done this and it makes for an enjoyable time.  But, only after the work is finished.  I would even ask your donors for their advice on what to see.  They love where they live and would be happy to tell you about the area.
  2. On the flight home, THEN you can enjoy your favorite beverage.
  3. When back in the office, schedule a post-trip meeting with your manager to go over the trip in detail, decide what follow up needs to happen and next steps taken.
  4. Update everything into the database.
  5. Call the donor and thank him again for meeting with you five days after the visit.  This allows time for your personal note to arrive first.

There you have it.  Follow these tips and your donor trips will be successful.  Don’t… and you’ll end up in one of my numerous stories.