Transformational gifts are not always the largest gifts. Sometimes a commitment made at the right time – early in a project, or perhaps when a campaign is stalled – can be transformational.
When funding for a project is unclear, or when funders are not coming through with commitments, confidence can decline. On a team this often manifests itself in the form of more meetings, lack of team cohesion, and increased turnover. We cannot overstate the importance of confidence – for individuals, for your advancement team, for your complete enterprise.
The nonprofit sector is the largest sector of our economy. We would love to be able to calculate the lost productivity, or lost output, due to uncertainty, fear, or simply a lack of clarity that arises from (or, in many cases, produces) a lack of funding.
We’ve witnessed how a gift commitment at the right time can provide more than just momentum – it can transform a team and an enterprise. It can validate the vision and trigger a state of flow in an organization. In the funding function, this translates into increased confidence in the story, more presentations, more asks, and more revenue.
There are times when we can share the internal uncertainty with a funder – to talk about the impact the commitment could have on the psychology of the team. Any funder that’s ever had to lead will understand the importance of validation, clarity, and the morale boost that follows.
In a way we’re saying, “Your impact is not only going to be on the kids, or homes, or projects. It’s going to have a very, very real impact on our team. They have been putting in long hours, fighting for this plan.”
It takes a particular command and control to share this kind of message with a funder. It’s not about showing weakness. It’s… a real opportunity to transform. This is the kind of thing we mean when we talk about being ‘a real partner’ with the funder and standing ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’.
So, transformational gifts can be about something other than huge gifts that give scale; they can be about well-timed funding commitments that give confidence. Confidence and team-cohesion is TRANSFORMATIONAL.
It’s easier to get into something than it is to get out of something.
This isn’t something most people think about, but upon hearing, say, “Yeah, isn’t that the truth!?” This is a human insight with implications for anything we start – like a new partnership, position, or program.
In the natural world, it has a parallel with Newton’s first law of motion: An object in motion tends to stay in motion.
And, while the insight would seem to be a caution about jumping into things quickly, I think of it more as a law of human behavior. For instance, with a new program commitment we might want to think about the exit strategy – in case it’s needed. For a new funding relationship it means we should (often) be less concerned with getting a maximized gift commitment and maybe just focus on getting a new prospect ‘in’ and committed to our work (at any level).
We’re really proud of the team at the UI. They now provide accelerator and support programs to Social Entrepreneurs in over 30 countries!!! Since the institute’s inception, we’ve provided pro-bono mentorship and coaching to these entrepreneurs.
We think of Unreasonable Institute as a platform that finds, attracts and supports the most promising Social Entrepreneurs on the planet – they are GREAT at this.
For our part, we benefit from proximity and relationship with entrepreneurs all over the world – working on some of the most complex problems ranging from clean water, to climate change, to housing, to health (access). In terms of impact, we view this as a huge leverage point. We get to be with these entrepreneurs as they BEGIN their journey (toward scale).
The Future Cities Accelerator:
Kerry and I are preparing to leading a two-day Boot Camp around Storytelling and Sales at the Future Cities Accelerator. This is a new Unreasonable Institute concept developed in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation to find, support, and scale ten game-changing ventures supporting poor and vulnerable populations in the US. As we prepare to spend time with these entrepreneurs, here are some key refrains we will share:
We become what we think about.
In addition to the global power of this insight, we caution social entrepreneurs from getting too caught up in messaging ‘earned-income revenue’ or ‘biz model’. These are HUGELY important, but entrepreneurs can get distracted as they make their way through awards circles, fellowships, and conferences. They seem to be sucked into a world that debates the how at expense of story about the why and the what.
Eyes on the prize. And the prize is the impact.
There are no rules.
(Assuming ethical and legal baseline, but beyond that, there are no rules.) Everything we share in terms of our frameworks are simply constructs that we’ve made up (and tested A LOT). Don’t ever think there is some magic fundraising (or entrepreneurship) secret that you don’t know. There isn’t.
We are taught to present, not to engage.
Simply ask yourself before every pitch, or sale, “What would ENGAGEMENT look like in this situation?” Use more visuals. Be simple. Ask questions. (Despite the fact that every entrepreneur is going to have you make a pitch deck – outside of silicon valley, boulder and wall street – nobody uses a pitch deck.)
Think Big. Build Simple. Act Now.
We don’t believe that ‘Changing the World’ has to be cliché. ‘Changing the World’ is the epitome of THINK BIG! And it’s only cliché if you can’t follow-up with how you’re going to do it – SIMPLY and IMMEDIATELY.
Entrepreneurs will complete the boot camp next week after which our team will provide coaching and support for nine months. I hope to be able to share some great stories about innovation and promise for impacting our most vulnerable populations.
Set your intent at the start of a visit. In conjunction with strong predisposition, an INTENT will help you TRANSITION throughout the conversation and DRIVE toward an ask. Stating intent could be as simple as outlining the FLOW for the visit, “Thanks for taking time to visit with us today. As George shared, we’re hoping to connect with people that really have a similar passion for helping youth. What we would like to do is take a few minutes to get to know you [the OPEN]. We would like to share a little bit about what we’re doing [the STORY]. And, then, if it’s okay, we would love to talk about ways to help [the ASK / Presenting the Opportunity].”
When they’re not able to navigate the ‘flow-of-the-visit,’ Development Officers have a hard time transitioning to the ask. It’s as though they are waiting to be invited to have a discussion about how the prospect can help. In a broader and universal sense, any discussion is more productive when framed by a clear intent. As a reminder, here is the framework we use to illustrate the ‘The Flow of the Visit.’
Most of us hope to leave a legacy – for our families, communities, those we serve, our world… And many of you reading this have an even more unique opportunity to leave a mark.
As a development professional (in many cases, this includes executive/volunteer leadership), you have the chance to be a part of three legacies:
The Legacy of the Funder. It’s your job to help funders and leaders move from success to significance. That cannot happen without you.
Your Personal Legacy (or Brand). Think of this as the positive energy, attitude and optimism you bring to your team every day.
The Mentorship Legacy. Every great leader and every great sales professional became great because of hard work AND because of great models. Be intentional about this legacy. Your impact will not be contained to your organization – it will multiply (for better or worse) as the next generation assumes leadership to be for impact.
This month’s print edition of HBR makes mention of a new study supporting ‘the purpose-profit’ connection (p32). The study looks at the relationship between strong purpose and public company financial performance. I believe the insights apply to all organizations – That is, any organization with a strong purpose will see increased performance. The study finds there is a strong link between PURPOSE and PERFORMANCE (or, in my adjusted language, IMPACT). Researchers make a distinction in two types of high purpose organizations. The first is what it calls ‘high camaraderie’ where everyone simply has a sense that they are doing something great, TOGETHER. The second type of purpose is ‘high clarity’ from management. This is noted as the type where managers excel at translating purpose into action. The statistically significant performance bump was only found with organizations that have ‘purpose clarity.’
As a leader, think not just about PURPOSE, but ‘PURPOSE CLARITY.’ To help you with this, I would bridge some of the findings of the research with some of the For Impact teaching. Think about PURPOSE as an anchor for your STORY. And, by story, I don’t mean a narrative with a beginning-middle-end. I mean how you FRAME the organization. A GREAT STORY…
Some of the writing in the research study further supports thinking about placing PURPOSE inside of STORY. “The company’s primary purpose – the real one, which isn’t necessarily the one written in the official documents or etched in the wall plaques – [that] guides its actions and decisions.”
———————– Gartenberg, Claudine Madras and Prat, Andrea and Serafeim, George, Corporate Purpose and Financial Performance (June 30, 2016). Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 16-69. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2840005
The For Impact Funding Roadmap has been built, tested, and refined in working with thousands of organizations to raise over $2Billion. Though each organization is unique, we believe the Roadmap has universal application – Whether you’re a startup, a college running a large campaign, or an international NGO – every funding initiative needs a STORY, a TEAM, and a FUNDING PROCESS. [Download the PDF.]
Here are some quick thoughts on the Roadmap. [We’re also leading a teleseminar this Tuesday with more explanation, examples and help to APPLY the Funding Road Map to your funding. Register here.] Design your STORY The funding roadmap begins with STORY. A great story is anchored in hope-filled purpose, simplifies what you do, and serves as a litmus for action.
Design your PRESENTATION. The ‘ASK’ is an experience. We actually stop to think about the complete experience, from predisposition, to the environment, to the materials.
Really important point about STORY. This is not just a ‘funding thing’ – It guides your IMPACT and provides MEANING for your TEAM. Organizations so often enter a cycle of strategic planning – I wish there was a norm to enter into a cycle of STORY planning!
Develop your TEAM Jim Collins says, “First WHO, then WHAT.” With our Funding Roadmap we might say, “First WHY, then WHO, then WHAT!”
Commit to SALES. Every organization needs to STOP and make a commitment to sales. What does this mean for your team? For your organization? For your strategy/resources?
Engage LEADERSHIP. Leadership needs to be bought into the STORY and likely even the source of the STORY. Leadership also needs to be bought into the model.
Model TEAM SELLING. This is about defining roles and responsibilities for staff, board and champions. Important note: In a true sales model, your board is not responsible for fundraising! In a true sales model there is a role for board members that is very different from saying they are responsible for fundraising.
FUND your VISION
Identify/ Prioritize/ Strategize your PROSPECTS. Prospects. Drive. Everything. There is a lot to say on prospects (that’s why we have a whole guidebook) but here are some key points:
When building a strategy ask this question, “What would it look like to maximize this relationship?”
Maximize relationships at this given moment
Just VISIT. In the words of the prolific sales trainer, Brian Tracy, “Spend more time with better prospects.” We’ve been teaching this for years. There is so much value in the old maxim, “JUST SHOW UP.” The visit is the entire context for the ASK. It has three parts:
Just ASK. This is kind of an alpha/omega to everything we teach.
Finally, it’s worth tying this all together as it relates to the For Impact Point of View:
Here’s a topic that comes up often with some of our coaching clients – Especially when there is lack of role clarity around maximizing relationships!
A NATURAL PARTNER (N.P.) is a person (either inside or outside of your organization) who has a strong relationship with your organization and an existing relationship with the Qualified Prospect(Q.P.) – Or a reason to believe one can be established quickly!
Externally, Natural Partners can be on your Board, they can have a business relationship with the prospect, they can be members of the same club or organization or they can be fellow community leaders, etc.
Internally, the Natural Partner can be anyone from the President/Executive Director to top senior leadership, to a staff/programming person who has a great relationship with the prospect.
It’s important that you determine the difference between a RELATIONSHIP MANAGER (R.M.) and a NATURAL PARTNER.
The RELATIONSHIP MANAGER does not necessarily have to have an existing relationship with the prospect. Their job is to do exactly what it says – MANAGE THE RELATIONSHIP. The Relationship Manager is always a member of the ‘Green Team’ – I.e., directly responsible for maximizing relationships on behalf of the organization/impact. It is perfectly fine for multiple people within the organization to have a relationship with a Q.P. – as long as the Relationship Manager has been defined.
The NATURAL PARTNER can have an existing relationship, or the ability to create one immediately, but most importantly, they play and instrumental role in Team Selling. They can:
Help get the visit! Opening doors is one of the most productive things N.P. can do!
Predispose the Prospect to a great visit! A N.P. can send a great note ahead of the visit – “I know you’re meeting with Sharon on Friday – I’m so excited for the two of you to meet, for you to hear about the vision and getting more involved in our impact! I’ll check in with you after”
Follow Up! A call from the Natural Partner (after a check in with the R.M.) can be hugely beneficial. “How did it go? What did you think? What can I do to help?”
Most people don’t know how to keep control of the next action when leaving a voicemail. This can have a huge / negative impact on your selling, fundraising, or follow-up in general! This is a tactic I picked up early in my sales career. It’s simple and effective.
Most people leave a very standard voicemail. “This is Nick Fellers, I’m calling about XYZ. My phone number is 614-352-2505. Please call me back.”
Do not leave the responsibility for follow-up with the prospect. It’s YOUR responsibility!
Instead, “It’s Nick Fellers, I’m calling to connect about ______. I’m sorry I missed you. You can reach me at 614-352-2505. Or, I’ll try you again later.”
This keeps you in control of the follow-up action.