I gained this experience working as the chief market researcher for an organization that sought funding to establish its business and fund development of its products. In addition to market research, I also searched for, set up and participated in meetings with potential investors. These are the things I wish I had known going in to those meetings.
First, most investors (and donors) want or need a certain "fit" for their money. The fact that you have a great idea, cause or invention has nothing to do with this. As such -- and I cannot emphasize this enough -- you cannot take it as a personal rejection if what you're doing doesn't match what they are looking for. If the fit is not there, then you should not push the point.
What constitutes a good fit? It varies from investor to investor. And if you don't know their criteria (which may well be the case) then simply ask. Criteria may include...
- The field of endeavor they prefer,
- The investments (or donations) they have already made,
- The problem you are trying to solve,
- The amount of money you need,
- When you want the money,
- When they can realistically expect to see a return,
- How much of a return they will get, and
- Your experience in
- The field of endeavor
- Managing an operation
- Handling other people's money
My inclination for situations where it is not an automatic fit: Be open about that fact and explore it. See if there's an opportunity anyway. If there's no fit, then leave on an up note. Reasons: 1] Most importantly, it's the right thing to do, and 2] whether they invest or not, you want to make allies, not enemies.