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!
NOW is a great time to turn SACRED COWS into HAMBURGER! NOW is a great time to shed BAGGAGE which is holding us back and keeping us from making QUANTUM LEAPS!
Any time I am in front of a audience, I ask people to spend time writing down the SACRED COWS of both the Non Profit Industry (Third Sector, Fundraising, etc.) and of their particular Organization. I usually provide some ‘yeast‘ with things like:
“We need this event to raise awareness/friends.” Special events are not ‘special’ and not ‘events.’ ‘Donors’ hate to go. Staff hates to put them on. The ‘triple net‘ is a very poor return-on-energy and return-on-investment.
“Peers must solicit peers (for money).”Just the idea of the word ‘SOLICITATION’ (the implication of which I cannot go into in a PG-13 document), should be enough to make you give up on this 1950’s idea!
“Feasibility studies are mandatory.”Internal leaders enlist external consultants to do a feasibility study for justification, CYA, and backup. Consultant conversation with a prospect goes like this: “If XYZ nonprofit org were to do a hypothetical campaign with a hypothetical goal, how much hypothetical money would you hypothetically give to this hypothetical campaign?” (UGH!)
I find it fascinating that allowing people to talk about their SACRED COWS and the baggage that they are carrying around unleashes such an enthusiastic response.
I encourage you to go ahead and ‘vent‘ but then get on to talking about real issues that need to be dealt with and that are still happening because “It’s the way we’ve always done it.”
It’s always a great time to get your team together and talk about turning all those SACRED COWS into HAMBURGER and dumping all the BAGGAGE that we are carrying.
On my trip around the world, I saw those ‘sacred cows’ walking around the streets of India. I also learned that once these cows become too old or die, the carcasses are shipped across the border and turned into hamburger.
Along those same lines, a Hindu sage, Ramana Maharshi, asks: “Would you carry your luggage on your head while on board a train?” He says we are not lessening the burden of the train by keeping it on our head, but only straining ourselves unnecessarily.
Special Note: We do take a hard line on many things we consider to be OLD THINKING. The good news is that if we take something away, we’ll always give you a NEW way to think about it. Read more about Sacred Cows and Change here.
This week’s theme is: Commit to SHARING THE STORY and PRESENTING THE OPPORTUNITY!
STOPASKING FOR MONEY.
Money is merely ‘worthless wampum’! No one likes asking their friends, much less strangers, for money. (The rare volunteer who really loves doing this should be treasured as a true gift, psychoanalyzed, and then cloned.)
Your conversations are not about asking for money. They are about changing the world. (Of course it requires resources to do that.)
STARTSELLING YOUR IMPACT!
PRESENT the OPPORTUNITY…
To help with your cause and your case.
To move from success to significance.
To make an impact and change the world.
Special Note: Ask any Board Member (or, for that matter, any of your staff) if they’d rather ‘Ask for Money’ or ‘Present Opportunities’ (to make an Impact.) You already know the answer.
This week’s theme is: Commit to SHARING THE STORY and PRESENTING THE OPPORTUNITY!
Why do we cultivate people?
As Tom always reminds me, “Cultivation is that thing you do with plants and manure.”
We really, truly don’t understand ‘cultivation.’ We are in the business of saving, changing, and impacting lives. If you can help people understand your impact and they want to help then they don’t need cultivation -They need to be asked!
Here’s a simple story to emphasize the point. Imagine that you and your prospect were walking around a lake and came upon a drowning child. What would that prospect do? It’s likely she would jump in, fully clothed, committed to saving the life of the child. And so would you. Try to imagine this same scenario where you would first try to spend years getting this person interested in saving children (read: cultivation.)
So, if you’re actually saving or changing lives then you can’t really argue that cultivation is needed. The issue at hand is much more about communication. That is, how you communicate your impact in such a way that is clear, concise and compelling. So clear, in fact, the prospect jumps on board (read: into the lake) to make a major investment in your impact.
If you can communicate the impact, the income will follow. If you can communicate the impact, you can ask for any amount of money on the first (sometimes second) visit. The challenge, again, is that we struggle with our message. Or, we might even have the message, but we’re not out visiting with people, one-on-one, to share the message and present the opportunity for them to help (or save the child.)
Your job is to communicate the impact, not spread manure. It’s blunt but we want to motivate you to action with this idea. You’re doing great things – so present the opportunity for someone to help now.
P.S. If you think this example is too simplistic or unrealistic, please know that this same example is what set into motion the greatest philanthropist of our era – We’ve altered the lake example somewhat but borrowed it from noted philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer who wrote an amazing article in the New York Times, “What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You?” In that article he also explains Bill Gates’ moment of clarity around impact that moved him to action.
This week’s theme is: COMMIT TO BETTER PREDISPOSITION.
You’ve seen our rant on “No More Special Events.” If not, I’ll summarize here: SPECIAL EVENTS ARE NOT ‘SPECIAL!’
They rarely generate income anywhere close to the corresponding staff and volunteer effort and time – Even though we’ve spent more that half the year selling tables, sponsoring golf holes or lining up silent auction items.
P.S. Not only do your volunteers and staff hate these Non-Special Events, so do all of the ‘INVITEES’ … who clearly don’t want to go to another ‘un-memorable, time-away-from their-family’ auction, gala, ‘fundraiser’!!!
Instead, MAKE EVERYTHING YOU DO A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE!
A ‘MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE’ is about your Vision, your Message, your Impact.
Every ‘MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE’ is an incredible PREDISPOSITION OPPORTUNITY.
A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE isn’t about the number of people in attendance, it’s about getting the best people in attendance. Instead of selling tables, think about getting the best 10 prospects you have in the room (preferably your room) and knock their socks off with the IMPACT.
This week’s theme is: Set your goals of ENGAGEMENT.
When people talk to themselves, it’s called insanity. When organizations talk to themselves, it’s called Strategic Planning.
Most ‘Strategic Plans’ are an internal work of fiction usually prepared by left-brain, accountant-types who love outlines, charts, 5-year projections, etc. If you’re looking for an undecipherable, unimaginative, unread, super-thick binder to use as a bookend or a doorstop, then by all means, do a strategic plan!
Note: The old-line, old-school Case Statements worked in their time, but that time has passed. There’s no engagement, no sharing, no dialogue, no involvement, no support. P.S. I feel the same way about no more ‘Business Plans,’ but I’ll save that rant for another day.
There is too much to do, too many lives to SAVE and IMPACT, to get caught up in ‘strategy.’ Instead…
START1,000-DAY ACTION PLANS!
If you really, really, want to achieve your Vision, fulfill your Mission, live your Message: then prepare an Action Plan that will provide focus and direction for the next 1,000 Days (11 Quarters, 33 Months, almost 3 Years).
Your 1,000 Day Action Plan should include:
90-Day Goals and Priorities
Monthly Checklists and Measurement
This will engage your team and leaders in a focused manner.
P.S. Match this with a 1,000-Day Funding Plan and you will be well on your way to success.
Here’s a simple question: Would Apple or Microsoft or Starbucks (or any other company) ask ‘VOLUNTEERS’ to do their ‘SALES’?
Just the idea of the word ‘SOLICITATION’ (the implication of which I cannot go into in a PG-13 document), should be enough to make you give up on this 1950’s “Peer-To-Peer Solicitation” model!
Instead, a PROFESSIONAL PRESENTATION involves PROFESSIONAL STAFF engaged in CONVERSATION and DIALOGUE with a goal of MAXIMIZING THE RELATIONSHIP! It’s a PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCE with PROFESSIONAL FOLLOW-UP.
Note: In the Old Model, a typical ‘ask’ by a peer (to a peer) goes “I have your (3 x 5) card. Can you give something? Just send it in.” WOW! Clear. Concise. Compelling. (NOT!)
Here are 7 pretty solid reasons not to use VOLUNTEERS to make SOLO SOLICITATIONS:
DESIRE, ENTHUSIASM, PERSISTENCE. How many of your volunteers really, really, really like to ask a friend for money? If presented as such, these volunteers lack key ingredients for sales success: ENTHUSIASM and PERSISTENCE. It is professional staff’s mission and responsibility to Present The Opportunity to Qualified Prospects.
TRADING DOLLARS. Every volunteer knows that whenever they ask one of their friends/peers for money, they will soon be asked back for that person’s favorite cause. This system of ‘trading dollars’ certainly does not allow for aggressively MAXIMIZING RELATIONSHIPS. Professional staff are objective, fair and committed to helping their prospective investor feel great about their commitment.
TIME. Volunteers basically have none. Their other business priorities and family obligations make it very difficult to fulfill volunteer duties. Professional staff, on the other hand, are focused and dedicated to Presenting The Opportunity to as many Qualified Prospects AS POSSIBLE.
ACCOUNTABILITY & FOLLOW-UP. With a volunteer, there isn’t any! “I saw so and so at a party, and I think they might do something.” Even if they make a visit or accompany on a visit, they will not think about following up and assuring their commitment. Professional staff do a memo for the record on every visit. They send a great follow-up letter summarizing the visit and the opportunity. They make a phone call on a specific date to determine the level of commitment and finalize the details with the investor.
TRAINING. Most volunteers have not been trained in how to make this kind of presentation. Many don’t understand sales, the sales process, presentation flow and framework. Even for our most incredible champions, very few have the time to become properly knowledgeable about the institution/organization and the investment opportunities available. Professional staff should be well trained. They know as much as they need to know about the organization. They are involved in ongoing professional and personal development. They understand that success is a combination of ATTITUDE and SKILL.
PREPARATION. Even with the best of volunteers, asking their assistant for directions on the way out the door is their idea of preparing for the call. Professional staff go over the Knowledge Base Worksheet, Relationship Strategy Checklist, the Visit Checklist, and have a goal for every visit.
THE VISIT ITSELF. Most volunteers begin with “How’s your family?” or “How’s your golf game?” Then move to “I got your 3×5 card.” “They want money.” “Do what you can.” When faced with a question, a challenge, or an objection, most volunteers retreat immediately. Great development and For Impact professionals know the Framework and Flow of the visit. They know how to ask questions and listen. They respond to investors’ feelings and react with creativity and flexibility. They deal with challenges and most importantly, they ask!
Special, Special Note: This is not a ‘bash the volunteer‘ list. Rather, it’s an attempt to help you re-think and re-invent the role of your VOLUNTEER LEADERS.
Volunteer Leaders, Board Members and Current Investors are all a huge part of the TEAM SELLING process. GREAT VOLUNTEER LEADERS and GREAT BOARD MEMBERS are literally worth their weight in gold. They should be used before, during and after the VISIT but, they should never be used ALONE!
*Interesting: The word ‘voluntary’ is defined as: ‘organ solo played in church before, during or after a service.’
That’s James Carville’s typically blunt, hit you between the eyes, challenge.
He goes on to say that, “Absent a major peace negotiation, complicated merger or complex legal settlement, there’s no reason on earth to have a meeting last more 30 MINUTES.”
After 40+ years in the ‘business world’, I never want to attend another meeting in my life. I believe this is also true of every other meeting attendee (excluding the meeting planner or boss who is holding the meeting.)
I wish I had a magic alternative. I’d love to see more ‘GATHERINGS’ of the right people at the right time on the right subject – to brainstorm or reevaluate or correct the course. (Imagine what life would be like without ‘meetings’, but where you ‘GATHERED’ together in a fun, productive session with real results.)
A meeting, by the way, is not a place to INFORM! If you want to share information, write it down and get it out in a one-pager. If you’re going to ‘gather’ for actionable results, then people need to be engaged and involved in the session – not listening to one person ramble with no purpose.
I’d also love to see more opportunities for CELEBRATIONS of accomplishments and success (rather than just ‘talking’ about what we’re going to do).
P.S. If you really, really want a PRODUCTIVE session, either STAND or go for a WALK!
If you’ve ever been to a For Impact training of any kind, you’ve experienced the infamous “Rope Trick.”
We pair participants up and “handcuff” them together with ropes. The goal is to solve this problem at least once – to completely free yourself from your partner without your rope ever leaving your wrists at any time. You can imagine the hilarity that ensues, but there is a point!
Many people repeat the same funky dance moves over and over yet end up back in the same spot – Still handcuffed together.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
– Albert Einstein
Solving this problem requires that you change your perspective.
Alan Keys, a pioneer of computer science, says:
“A change in perspective is worth 80 I.Q. points.”
Being For Impact is all about a change in perspective. Change can be scary, so in our approach we always GIVE you something valuable/simple in exCHANGE for the ‘old way’ of thinking. And if old Alan is right, these changes will also increase your I.Q. 🙂
Think about some of the ‘insane’ behaviors you/your organization are still doing – Special Events, Feasibility Studies, Cultivation, Transactions, etc – And, if you haven’t already, I recommend that you read or share the For Impact Guidebook: Change (The) Rules!
(P.S. If you want the solution to the Rope Trick – Email me and I’ll send you video solution.)