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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

No More Special Events: A Look At The WHY


Tom has stood on podiums (literally) for 30 years and shouted NO MORE SPECIAL EVENTS

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

Follow-Up is 90% of the Effort


Like predisposition, follow-up requires a specific strategy. Too often, wonderful presentations/asks/sales visits are wasted because there is no follow-up.

A typical scenario includes someone making a great presentation and then ‘hoping’ a gift comes as a result of the ask. Or, sometimes there is only a phone call that comes weeks (or months) later in which the substance of the dialogue is one question: “We were wondering if you had a chance to make a decision?”

It’s probably impossible to misquote or butcher one of Yogi Berra’s malapropisms, but here goes:

“Half of the game is presentation. The other 90% is follow-up.”

Huge problem: We consider our work finished when we get to the point of making the request. We feel like we’ve shared everything we can and now it must be in the prospect’s hands. That notion is wrong. In fact, follow-up is 90% of the effort!

Some reminders to help you with follow up:

  • This is not some one-off transaction. It’s all about a true relationship. Follow-up is about advancing the relationship, opportunity or plan WITH the prospect.
  • It’s either win/win or lose/lose! You’re presenting an opportunity to save lives, change lives or impact lives. Stop being so bashful.
  • Follow-up is about taking the opportunity to continue the excitement generated on the visit. You’re need to keep the momentum. This could mean:
    • An immediate follow-up letter.
    • An immediate follow-up phone call from champion or volunteer.
    • An immediate follow-up phone call from you.
  • Don’t dodge the issue! The worst follow-up is when you step politely around the pending request (hoping the prospect brings it up or announces to you a commitment.) Using your own style you need continue to work with prospect to advance the ball – be direct, sincere and authentic and remember – Hope is not a strategy.

Read more Thoughts on Follow Up from Tom.

Where Do We Find NEW Prospects?


In our work with thousands of organizations, staff and volunteers, this is the most FREQUENTLY ASKED (BIG, BIG, BIG) QUESTION:

“WHERE DO WE FIND NEW PROSPECTS?”

MY ANSWER: THIS IS THE WRONG QUESTION!!!

It’s not about ‘NEW’ PROSPECTS, it’s about the BEST PROSPECTS!

Why look for ‘New’ Prospects when you haven’t MAXIMIZED RELATIONSHIPS with your BEST and most QUALIFIED PROSPECTS!

FUNDING YOUR VISION is usually about your TOP 33 INVESTORS and perhaps your BEST 300 QUALIFIED PROSPECTS. Many of these top prospects are most likely sitting right in front of you… right now! (Not literally, but pretty darn close.)

The reason many of you are looking for ‘NEW’ prospects is because you believe:

“Our Old Prospects are tired of giving.”

“We have gone to the well too many times.”

“We can’t go back to our best prospects for more money.”

“We are taking advantage of our current relationship with our top prospects.”

To this, I would add 3 other thoughts coming from your current top givers that I also believe are very fair:

“I want you to get other people involved besides me.”

“I want you to broaden the base of support.”

“I don’t want to be the only one funding this organization or this project.”

While ‘expanding your base’ and ‘bringing in new relationships’ is important to your organization, it’s not the ‘ANSWER’ to your funding challenges!!!

I’d like to challenge your thinking with this idea: LOOK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD!

Stop ‘searching the world’ for new prospects/ fresh money. Before you figure out how to get to Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or the Walton’s…look to your own CHAMPIONS who have the strongest interest in your Cause and your Case.

Here are 3 stories to reinforce this idea of ‘YOUR OWN BACKYARD’.

Russell H. Conwell wrote one of the most powerful and motivational classics of all time, Acres of Diamonds, published in 1921. Conwell actually gave his speech entitled “ACRES OF DIAMONDS” more than 5,000 times and earned enough in this effort to help found Temple University!
Here are summarized versions of 3 STORIES in the book that I hope will have a huge IMPACT on your thinking about ‘NEW’ PROSPECTS.

GOLD. In 1847, a man who owned a ranch in Northern California heard that gold had been discovered somewhere in Southern California. He sold his ranch to a Colonel Sutter, and then went south to search for gold and riches, never to return.

Colonel Sutter put a mill on that stream. One day, he discovered flakes of gold in the spill off. Sutter’s discovery, in 1849, started the CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH!

DIAMONDS. An old Persian farmer was desperate for riches. He sold his farm, collected his money, left his family and went off in into the garden to drink. As the camel put his nose in the shallow water of the garden brook, the new owner saw a flash of brilliance and reached in and pulled out a diamond (in the rough). This discovery became the famous diamond mine of GOLCONDA!

OIL. In Pennsylvania, another farmer sold his farm to take a job with his cousin, who was looking for coal oil in Canada. He, too, was searching for wealth… in other places.
According to the county records, the farmer sold his farm for $833.

The new owner found oil… on that same farm. That oil was eventually worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and this discovery became the PENNSYLVANIA OIL FIELDS!

I hope the moral in all of these stories are clear and evident.

Read more On Prospects in our For Impact Guidebook, Gold Diamonds and Oil.