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.
Malcolm Gladwell explores the Bystander Effect in The Tipping Point. He recounts the 1964 New York (Queens) stabbing death of Kitty Genovese. Reportedly, dozens of witnesses heard Ms. Genovese and her cries for help; however, no one called the police.
The story is used to paint a picture of a phenomenon called the Bystander Effect – which has been well studied since. The Bystander Effect is one in which as more people are present at a scene of distress the responsibility for action becomes proportionally diffused.
38 people heard Genovese cry for help. Each knew others heard the cries. They were loud, in the middle of a big city. Each person assumed that someone else was making a call to police. So no one called the police.
This specific story has been debated since, but the point still stands. Take CPR Training for example – You used to shout, “Someone go call 911!” Now you’re instructed to point at a person and say, “YOU – go call 911!” If we need to direct the request for a simple phone call – to save a life – it stands to reason that it would go the same way for philanthropy.
Apply this to special events. Have you been to a special event where people are crying, overwhelmed by the impact of the organization? What’s the average gift size?
Alternatively, we know that if we simply change the context and visit with our best people one-on-one and JUST ASK, the responsibility cannot become diffused. When you make a specific request, face-to-face, the action is increased ten-fold (at least).
There is a world of difference between a plea for help to a group and a specific ask to an individual (or individual corporation/foundation).