This works as a napkin message – It’s powerful and simple.
I don’t do the ‘standing-on-a-podium’ thing, but I’m not above shouting IN ALL CAPS to make a point:
NO MORE SPECIAL EVENTS!
I get the occasional challenge, “But Nick, events are how we build relationships!” Or, “Our event gets the word out!”
In years and years of doing this, no one has ever said, “Our event is our CASH COW!”
WHY are you doing the event? Is it to raise money? Or, is it for MARKETING? (Start with WHY.)
It’s really helpful to make a distinction between MARKETING and SALES. Here is a great nugget to bridge the relationship between MARKETING and SALES:
It is the job of marketing to provide qualified leads for sales.
I hear many people who want to defend events with a marketing rationale. If you want to run events as a part of your MARKETING STRATEGY – great! Just don’t PRETEND your events are great fundraisers. And if MARKETING is the end goal, then how much are you telling your story at that golf outing?
Also, if you’re going to do an event to ‘BUILD relationships’ then it begs the question – what is your strategy to MAXIMIZE relationships?
NB: We’ve been on this rant for a few decades now. There are events that raise money – a lot of (net, net, net) money. Here are some examples:
The EVENT is the IMPACT. There are some organizations whose impact is using a community’s ability to raise money. For example, Pelotonia here in Central Ohio, which has raised over $100M for cancer research. They are in the event business: the money they raise from one event a year is given directly to cancer research (read: curing cancer!). Pelotonia is in the EVENT BUSINESS – most organizations (i.e., you) are not.
But what about WALL STREET?!?! Those ‘guys’ (I think, often citing Robin Hood as a model) all get in a room and give MILLIONS! This is an anomaly, not a model. When you can get a bunch of hedge fund titans in a room to throw their egos behind your philanthropy, have at it!
RECOGNITION EVENTS. These are events where the money was not raised, but simply RECOGNIZED, at the event. In all of these cases, I submit that more money could be raised if we were clearer on the WHY. While the organization might be ASKING because of an event, people aren’t GIVING because of the event; they are giving because of the IMPACT!
We have used the MPL tool to run hundreds of campaigns and major gifts initiatives. It’s simple and powerful. Rate your top prospects to create a Master Prospect List in descending order of importance. Then focus all your time (literally) on your top ten prospects — you will be amazed by the results.
Each prospect receives a rating in each category 1-5 (5 being the highest). The sum weighted total of ratings in each of the five categories will give you the Qualified Prospect Index – You need to visit with anyone 90 and higher today!
Definition of Key Terms
Relationship Manager (RM)
This is the person within your organization that manages the relationship — does not have to be the point of contact but must responsible for thinking about this prospect every day.
This is a person, internal or external to your organization that has the closest relationship to the prospect.
This number is the prospect’s capacity to make a major gift – a gift level that is worthy of one-on-one time with a prospect. This is not an indication of what you think the prospect WILL invest in your organization – it is an indication of what you think the prospect COULD give.
This is an indication of the prospect’s relationship to your organization or to your cause. If this prospect is on your board it should be a five (5). If, for example, you are the American Cancer Society, and this prospect is a cancer survivor, the rating should be a five (5) even with no gift history.
5 – Specific interest in our organization or cause
4 – Heavily invested in our cause or within a sector or geography in which we operate
Generally timing is always a five (5) unless you have specific knowledge otherwise.
What is this prospect’s giving history to your organization? You might determine that a five (5) on the rating scale indicates lifetime giving of $100,000+ or ten consecutive years in your Leadership Society. Below is an example using higher numbers.
5 – Has given multiple lifetime gifts and/or has given $1M lifetime
4 – Has given one or multiple gifts and/or has given $100k lifetime
3 – Has given one or multiple gifts and/or has given $10k lifetime
2 – Has given 1 lifetime gift and/or has given $1k liftetime
1 – Has never given and/or has given less than $1k lifetime
Philanthropy (or Gut Feeling)
This is a measure of the prospect’s general willingness to give. Has he or she supported other organizations? Is it a foundation (5)? Do we have a good feeling about them? Give it a 5! This is also where I take into account the person who reaches out to us first or has said, “I want to help.” or “I want to do something big, can we talk?” Give that a 5 as well.
If a Qualified Prospect is giving you $50 (let’s call this ‘1x’) in response to a mail campaign, any sort of an event or even ‘totally unsolicited’ then he or she would likely give 10x in response to a one-on-one, personal visit. And 50x if the visit includes a dialogue around the funding plan and an ask.
This is not scientific, but far from arbitrary, as way of thinking about:
The potential of your existing relationships (if we visit!), and,
Why we need to be doing more visits!
We often hear “we need more prospects” but often find that existing relationships are not being maximized and in some cases, not even being spoken to! Think about this:
1x is clearly emotional. I’ve seen a lot of people cry at events, but the giving is still impersonal and ‘charitable’ in nature.
Sitting with someone one-one-one (or 2-1) allows you to listen and respond. It makes the ask personal and seems to trigger another level of discernment in giving – increasing a commitment to an organization ten fold (10x).
To get the big, big gifts (50x) we need to walk our Qualified Prospects through a funding plan and have a dialogue around the ask. These conversations are much more strategic.
I often share a story of a school that threw a large gala where they asked everyone to “prayerfully consider giving at a level that was significant.” The school was frustrated – They had a $1M prospect giving $10K and $100K prospects giving $2K.
As much as the prospects liked the school they had no context for how much money to consider. They had no way of guessing that $1M might be the linchpin for the campaign and there was no discussion that gave the committed families and supporters a framework to think bigger.
To put it simply, in this case and many others, you need to tell them what to pray for!
This school went back to each supporter with a complete funding plan. The $1M dollar ask, for example, was a discussion around WHY they needed $1M and what it would enable the school to do (students/faculty/campus, leverage, leadership, timing, etc). The prospects had context in which to consider the ask and many of them increased their gifts by five times and some by 20 or 30 times!
I’ve met with billionaires and many, many millionaires. Trust me, nobody has disposable income. Nobody is going to guess that a $1Million will help. $10K or $50K is a lot to anyone! It’s not until we show up that we can get 10X. It’s not until we dialogue about 50X that we can get 50X. (Read more about The Bystander Effect and Philanthropy here.)
In closing, consider asking yourself a few questions: Is it easier for you to visit with every current funder and ASK (10X) or to get ten new prospects to give? From there, is it easier to get your best prospects to 50X or to get 5-10 more visits?
After you’ve walked through the vision and funding priorities, you come to the
funding plan and ask:
Based on everything we’ve talked about, I would love to ask you about being part of this plan. Mrs. X, I’m not really sure where to go. I don’t know much about your capacity but you’ve indicated you would ‘like to make a really big difference’.
We have several funders on board with us [checking off – with a pen – committed gifts]. I
would like to go this route and ask you, where do you see yourself?
(You can let the prospect think about it and respond. As with any question, it’s critical that
you LISTEN to the answer and PROCESS the response.)
The prospect responded by saying “I think I could only do this [pointing to $50,000] this year.” Key words: THIS. YEAR.
Important note: Obviously you can’t use the Clueless Close when you’re with your top prospects. If you know you NEED to ask for $1M or you NEED to ask for project funding (tied to a specific number) you can’t afford to be clueless. Use the Clueless Close with first time funders when your funding plan is not dependent upon a specific commitment.
Be prepared for the answer.
On a different visit for the project, I tried to ask the same question, but that prospect started laughing before I even finished. “Nick, I’m not on your chart.”
I paused and said: Could you tell me more about what that means?
He responded, “My wife and I are committed to seven big projects right now.”
Key Words: RIGHT. NOW. These are big community philanthropists in the middle of some huge funding commitments. He was telling me that though he loved our project, it couldn’t be one of his top projects right now.
At the end of that visit, he committed to $10K. The goal of every visit is to maximize the relationship at this given moment. In this case, there was a lot of potential for the future as he and his wife finished up with other projects, and I now had more information about capacity than I had before.
The Takeaway: The Clueless Close is a great way to ask when you don’t know what to ask for. And you will no longer be ‘clueless’ after this close.
Click here to download audio on on the Clueless Close + 19 more Closes.
This is one of my favorite ‘soap box’ platforms. As a gardener and faux-farmer, I know ‘cultivation’ is when you spread manure on plants!
Think about it from the other side for a second. No one wants to be CULTIVATED.
They either get your Message and Impact or they don’t. They want to support your Cause and your Case or they don’t. Your Qualified Prospects/Investors truly do want to help, but they don’t want to have a multitude of meetings before they’re even told what it is that you actually WANT from them.
STARTMAXIMIZING RELATIONSHIPS … AT THIS GIVEN MOMENT!
Many of you are waiting for the ‘perfect time’ to make your ‘BIG’ request. The ‘perfect time’ to MAXIMIZE a RELATIONSHIP is always NOW… AT THIS GIVEN MOMENT!
MAXIMIZING RELATIONSHIPS could be an invitation to join a Leadership Group, President’s Circle, Impact Circle, etc. It could be Presenting an Opportunity to Leave a Legacy Gift. Or, it may be ‘THE’ moment … for ‘THE’ Gift … that truly TRANSFORMS your organization.
Remember: You’re in SALES. Get over it. Go ‘sell’ your Vision, your Ideas, your Priorities, Projects and Programs. Now.