The absence of strong Funding Rationales (a.k.a. your reason for needing funds) likely means your organization is not maximizing relationships.
At a major-gifts level* there needs to be some specificity in terms of funding a specific program, outcome, or priority initiative. (See 10 Types of Funding Rationales). If you don’t have a specific Funding Rationale then one of two things usually happens:
The commitment is not maximized. People give to support a mission or a cause, and they invest more to support specific impact (or outcome). Our experience has been that a portfolio gives 3x more when you’re able to clearly define a strong funding rationale!!! This is the difference between asking,”Will you invest $10K in our vision?” And, “Will you invest $10K to help with this priority and these outcomes that will help us deliver on the vision?”
Funders (over) restrict the funding. When we see this, it’s an indication that the funder is creating a rationale because yours is not clear enough! Note: While restricted funding is not bad in and of itself, gifts committed with restrictions crafted by the funder hinder an organization’s efficiency or focus. Said another way, if you don’t define your priorities/rationales then someone will do it for you.
*For most organizations this is $10K+ and could come from an individual, corporation, or foundation.
When a Qualified Prospect asks, “How can I help?” you need to have a clear answer.
The fact that most organizations don’t have a clear answer is one of the biggest funding challenges in the ‘not-for-profit sector.’
I’ve heard many default responses that fall into these categories:
“I’ll get back to you.” The fundraiser then heads back to the office, calls a meeting and says, “Prospect X is willing to help! What should we ask for?” The team then makes up something that they think might be most attractive.
“Maybe you could come to our event?” The moves management route… “Would you consider joining our board?” Or [insert other ‘move.’] The prospect has already ASKED how they can help – You need an answer, not a chess gambit!
“How do YOU want to help?” This is just a weak way of engaging. I think too many in this sector are afraid of coming off as too aggressive if they answer truthfully. If you are authentically representing your IMPACT, and they have asked to help, then it is your responsibility to Present the Opportunity.
In self-assessments, most organizations can identify challenges with prospecting, messaging or board support. But rarely do they say, “Everyone always asks me how they can help… And I don’t have a clear answer!”
Simply bringing attention to this could have a tremendous impact.
On my last three visits I’ve heard this from prospects, verbatim:
“Tell me concretely, how I can help.”
“I’m not ready to make a commitment today, but what do you need?”
From a foundation: “What’s a way we can be most helpful to this work?”
Here are some ideas and resources to help you answer the question “How can I help?” – all of which fall under our Just Ask! philosophy:
Have a simple (major gift level) ask that works in every situation with every person. We’re a big fan of the Leadership Circle for this reason. It represents your simplest ask around the most compelling (and general) areas of your case. It’s not used to maximize a relationship, but it offers a clear answer. E.g. “Our Leadership Circle is a group of people – like you – who GET the mission and are invested in our cause at the $10,000 level. Collectively, all the Leadership Circle members generate $1M a year that’s used for unbudgeted and timely priorities. Would you be willing to join?”
Use the “Champion-Invite-Invest” framework. This is a great way of making the ask multidimensional. On its own it’s no more clear than ‘give or get,’ however, you can use the framework to ask for specific help as a champion… specific referrals… and specific opportunities for investment. (Watch 3 minute video.)
Develop a specific ask around a project, priority or plan. This allows you to ask for support around a specific project (and corresponding funding number) OR a funding plan. (Watch 3 minute video.)
We feel that these 9 Guiding Principles are pretty self-explanatory, but here are some notes to help you take charge of your Development Operation. ( Download and print the poster here.)
START WITH WHY. What prospects hear (often times) is “We need money to meet our annual funding goal” or “Buy a table at our gala.” These messages have no WHY – no saving, changing and impacting lives – which is exactly what people want to do!
If the number one question of every investor is, “Why do you exist?” and the person you are talking to doesn’t care about your WHY, it’s very hard to talk to her about the what and the how. For more on this, see Altitude Framework PDF, How to Stay at 30,000′ and Simplify Your Message.
YOU BECOME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT! Earl Nightingale, the father of personal development wrote The Strangest Secret in 1956 – the seed from which the personal development industry grew. Here is the ‘Strangest Secret’ – You Become What You Think About! It’s the difference in outcomes when you think about IMPACT, VISION, MEANING, instead of payroll, cuts in funding and survival. Read more here.
CHANGE YOUR VOCABULARY! WORDS ARE IMPORTANT! Stop using all the typical ‘nonprofit’ industry jargon. Start using ‘sales’ terms, ‘business’ terms, ‘common sense’ terms.
CHANGE (THE) RULES! Thisis a little play on words – in this generation’s lexicon, to RULE is a good thing. CHANGE DOES RULE. At the same time, in order to really CHANGE something (yourself, your organization, the world), you also to have CHANGE THE RULES. We believe it’s much stronger than that: THERE ARE NO RULES! Read more in our For Impact Guidebook: CHANGE (THE) RULES.
ENGAGE GREAT TALENT. Small or young organizations (for profit/nonprofit alike) often identify FUNDING as their top challenge – until the organization really figures out a working funding model. At that point, the top challenge becomes the RIGHT PEOPLE. (We can help you with this!)
DO THE MATH. You can’t ‘SELL’ unless you understand all the ‘NUMBERS!’ Doing the Math means owning and internalizing an understanding of your numbers – Your numbers tell an important part of your story. Doing the Math also means taking the time to simplify the numbers in a way that others – Your board, your prospects and your staff – can understand. Read more about Blue, Red and Green Math here.
COMMIT TO SALES. You are in sales! Not everyone wants to hear that but it’s the truth. What is sales? Sales is the responsibility, the calling, the opportunity to carry the story of your organization – how it’s saving, changing and impacting lives – and share that story with people, 1:1, to build relationships with them to ASK them to help save, change and impact lives. Sales is about ATTITUDE!
JUST ASK. JUST ASK. JUST ASK. No explanation necessary. Just do it.
We’re reposting some of OG’s greatest hits – Here he is with the companion audio to the Campaign Manifesto: Take a Quantum Leap. If you know us well you’ve heard the first 5-10 minutes of intro – Feel free to scoot past!
A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done! This week’s theme is SIMPLIFY YOUR MESSAGE.
I came across a brilliant thinker, Simon Sinek, who has a great book, Start With Why, a powerful Ted Video, and an amazing story around the power of ‘WHY.’
The essence of his message:
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
He calls it the ‘Golden Circle’.
Mediocre organizations and leaders always sell ‘outside-in’: talking about WHAT, then HOW (features, benefits), and never even getting to the WHY.
Great leaders sell ‘inside-out’ – leading with the WHY.
Sinek’s Golden Circle is our ALTITUDE FRAMEWORK… with research!
Starting with Why has many implications in our For Impact world; here’s a few:
A vocabulary challenge to the sector. What prospects hear (often times) is “We need money to meet our annual funding goal” or “Buy a table at our gala.” These messages have no WHY, but what your prospects want to do is save, change and impact lives.
Selling happens at 30,000’. The number one question of every investor is, “Why do you exist?” If the person you are talking to doesn’t care about your WHY, it’s very hard to talk to her about the what and the how. Conversely, if your WHY is his number one priority, you can ask on the proverbial ‘first date.’
There are 1.5M nonprofits in the U.S. You must be able to talk about your raison d’etre (reason for existence); otherwise, you just ‘exist to exist.’
*Warning: It’s pretty easy to run down this list and blow off a number of these with a “We’ve already got this/done this” attitude. I encourage you to take a look at the resources we’ve provided below and create an Action Plan for 2016.
Set up your next month’s visits right now!
ENGAGEMENT is all about FOCUS and DISCIPLINE and EXECUTION.
Don’t ‘think’… DO! Once you have your Funding Plan and ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY laid out… EXECUTE! (ACT!)
Commit to SHARING THE STORY and PRESENTING THE OPPORTUNITY!!!
“We need a NEW LANGUAGE. The critical distinction is not between business and social, but between GREAT and GOOD. (We need to) jointly embrace a LANGUAGE OF GREATNESS.”
And, I say, CHANGE YOUR VOCABULARY!
I believe that if you CHANGE the way you TALK…
you can CHANGE the way you ACT!
It’s not just a personal belief: there is compelling science around the psychology of CHANGE that includes tremendous work on this whole idea of NEUROLINGUISTICS and how we FRAME things. Pioneering researchers on cognitive science and linguistics have pointed to the paramount importance of something called ‘FRAMING’.
George Lakoff, Professor at University of California Berkeley, defines ‘FRAMES’ as the mental structures that shape the way we see the world. He says that ‘FRAMES’ are part of our “cognitive unconscious;” but the way that we know our current frames or new frames springs from LANGUAGE.
I want to strongly encourage you to CHANGE YOUR VOCABULARY. CHANGE the way you TALK …To dramatically CHANGE the way you ACT.
My hope is that the following OLD WORDS/NEW WORDS will help you ‘TALK THE WALK’… to make it easier to ‘WALK THE TALK!’