If you’ve seen Tom or me speak… or if you’ve been to a workshop then you’ve probably heard our rant about ‘No More Special Events’.
A bold few always want to challenge this position:
- “But that’s how we build relationships.”
- “But that’s how we generate awareness.”
No one ever says, “But that’s our CASH COW!”
The reasons most often heard in defending special events are really tied to MARKTING. Substitute the objections above with, “But that’s how we do our marketing!”
Interesting. And, OK. So that begs a question, what about your SALES?
Think about your development efforts in terms of MARKETING and SALES. Right now we don’t use those terms (Enough? At all?). Use MARKETING and SALES as a simple strategic framework. What IF we all agreed that the one big event was going to be the most incredible opportunity for us to tell our story? What if we didn’t pretend it made a ton of money?
If you’re going to keep your event – in the name of building relationships – then tell me what you’re going to be doing to MAXIMIZE RELATIONSHIPS.
If you decide to keep that event then decide it’s purpose. If it’s to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS then set out to make it the best at doing that… but don’t pretend it’s the centerpiece of your funding strategy.
MARKETING and SALES.
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS and MAXIMIZING RELATIONSHIPS.
A reminder: Best way to MAXIMIZE RELATIONSHIPS is 1:1.
And a question: What if we took that time, energy and effort spent on the event(s) and put that into getting great visits and providing customized experiences with our top 10 or 20 prospects?
It’s the function of marketing to produce qualified leads for sales. I can’t remember where I got this definition but I favor it as it relates to our development efforts. Once you determine what efforts are marketing and what are sales then you can ask, “How are we using this marketing effort to find qualified leads for sales?”
I’ve watched development officers come back from planned giving seminars with four D-ring binders full of options, vehicles and mechanics… no joke.
Some people go to school for years to understand those D-ring binders – they’re called accountants and lawyers!
Your job is to get the person/prospect/family to agree they want to leave a legacy – then have the people that went to school for this stuff figure out the mechanics. Stay high level. Stay simple.
Personally, I’ve never done anything with a CRT or creative insurance policy. I know that some gifts have ended up using those vehicles – the ‘how’ was just completed by someone more qualified than me.
I noted to someone the other day that I pretty much only use two ways to close a planned gift.
PROTECT CLOSE: Asking someone that gives a regular and recurring amount to ‘protect the investment’. Example: Let’s say someone is giving $10K annually. You could rationalize a $200K planned gift to ‘protect’ that annual commitment. Idea is that if you had $200K and you wanted to use that as an endowed gift it would generate about 5% every year — or $10K.
- COMPLETING THE BALANCE: If someone wants to get to a funding LEVEL… say $5M but just can’t because of mechanics you might ask them to work for a gift level and commit to the balance via a planned gift. Example: Perhaps she can figure out how to pledge $3M in cash. The remaining $2M could be planned gift (note: may not help your immediate funding plan but does create a rationale for the gift). Of course, this planned gift pledge could also be converted to a cash gift at a later time… always creative options.
The coaching: Spend time getting people to WANT to fund your impact… COMMITTED to funding your impact… this is what YOU do well. Then, team up with others that do their job well to figure out the HOW-TO.
Complex things don’t work. Simple things work. Look at the D-Ring binders on your self. Look simple?
Nick and I just had a shorthand, fast and furious, conversation on how to present projects (buildings or otherwise) that don’t have all of the details complete. This could mean final cost estimates, but it could also be around no final design, no final square footage, no architect… and perhaps even no site!
Here’s Nick’s great line for leadership investors: “We are working on (all of the above), and will have (final numbers or whatever) at some point.”
“Today, we’re LINING UP THE FINANCING… to ensure that we can make this project happen.”
After that, it’s all downhill, so to speak. They’re either IN or not. They either GET IT, at the HIGHEST LEVEL, or not.
We have raised an awful lot of money and gotten some serious leadership commitments with no final cost, no final design, and on a number of occasions, no final site or land!
Special Note: Here are 3 synapse, tangential thoughts.
- The CONTINGENCY CLOSE. “Based on all we talked about, can you make this leadership commitment CONTINGENT on (final estimates, final design, etc.)?” This actually works for just about any ‘objection’.
- Mark McCormack, Founder if IMG, now one of the largest firms in the world representing athletes and artists, simplifies the entire secret to sales success this way:
“Always sell at the highest level.”
He would love Nick Fellers. Nick is always coaching around the presentation: “When you get in trouble, when things seem to fall apart, when there are questions… ALWAYS GO UP/BACK to 30,000′.”
- “You’re not in the real estate business.” This is my favorite line for anybody trying to do buildings, capital improvements, etc. It’s not about the place, the building, the real estate… it’s WHY you need it… and WHAT goes on in there.
Stance: I’m ALL FOR adding more sales people… investing in sales, etc.
A thought/question as it relates to ADDING more sales people (major gifts positions). Should you add another position? Or, should we re-design some of the top-level priorities so that an ED and senior advancement officer can allocate more time to the top of the pyramid?
Catalyst: I’m out west working with a For Impact org that is about three months into making the quantum leap. ED gets it…. totally. He says, “Nick, I can see how this is going to continue to be HUGE. I’m thinking we should add ANOTHER major gifts person.”
I challenged the ED (and share with you). To date, he’s only been able to spend about 1% of his time on top-level relationships (up from 0%). My suggestion was that he hire a high-level support person (eg. ‘Director of Special Projects’) to free up his ability to create a 10% focus. Even if he were to hire another sales person, he is a leader, a visionary and consequently, the dude that needs to be part of the presentation for the many $1M+ relationships. Adding someone else (without adding leadership focus) isn’t going to max the return. Interesting though, I’ll bet it would still have a strong ROI.
This is no different than asking a CEO to make it a priority to service the top-level accounts for a company. He/she can add more sales people but to really maximize the potential time could be well spent checking in on the top 10 accounts.
One of the discovery questions for boot camp attendees: How many times have you (or org) sat down with someone one-on-one in the past three months and asked for more than $1,000?
For MOST organizations and even the BUSIEST funding professionals and largest colleges this number rarely tops five!
One simple way to think about boosting productivity is to literally drop everything that doesn’t help you boost this number (by a lot.) What if your ONLY goal were to have ten great visits in which you shared the story of your organization and presented the opportunity to help or make an impact (this month)?
I think the Standford Social Innovation review is improving – markedly. When it first launched I thought the brand and concepts were strong but articles were way too academic/theoretical — as a ‘field guy’ I didn’t relate much. I’m starting to come back in to the fold. Thought this was a really cool article on Ten Nonprofit Funding Models – thumbs up to the framing these authors put around various funding models.
Quickly the ten models are:
1. Heartfelt Connectors
2. Beneficiary Builder
3. Member Motivator
4. Big Bettor
5. Public Provider
6. Policy Innovator
7. Beneficiary Brokers
8. Resource Recyclers
9. Market Maker
10. Local Nationalizer
Read through the article, you will see that these are (for the most part) really about how the fund development operation builds its case-for-support and funding base. For example, a University is a Beneficiary Builder. They offer services and provide enough value that people who have benefited in the past (alumni) will fund the model. We’re seeing huge success in this model and a marketplace that is something of an arms race (as every college competes to build the latest and greatest)… you’re seeing the funding model shift from student workers to alumni philanthropy… hence some of the ivy’s starting to announce that students will graduate debt free.
I think this article has a lot of legs. Very few organizations ever stop to think about their funding model and even fewer stop to think about it in this way.
Thanks to Sean Stannard-Stockton | Tactical Philanthropy for finding this article.
If an investor is giving you 1x in response to a mail campaign, any sort of an event or ‘totally unsolicited’ then he or she would likely give 10x in response to a one-on-one (personal) visit-with-an-ask and 30x if the visit includes a dialogue around the funding plan (as part of the full case-for-support and ask).
This is not scientific but it’s far from arbitrary. This is our own little way of thinking about a measure-of-engagement based on what we’ve seen at many organizations (start-ups to colleges). It’s a way of thinking about
- The potential of your current relationships.
- The potential of new relationships (if we visit!)
- Why we need to be visiting
Everybody says they need more prospects. Instead of trying to get more people to give 1x think about how you can get more people to give 30x!
- 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-on-one (or 2-1 / 2-2) 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).
- But to really get the big big gifts (30x) we need to do a better job of walking our prospects through a funding plan and going back and forth, having a dialogue about the ask… giving context and providing the FULL case-for-support. These conversations are much more strategic.
At our seminars I share a story of a school that met with parents and supporters. They asked everyone to “prayerfully consider giving at a level that was significant”. Those that had previously contributed $2000 through the auction responded with $20,000 gifts. The school was still frustrated. They had $1M prospects giving $100K and $100K prospects giving $20K.
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… there was no discussion that gave the committed families and supporters a framework to think bigger.
This school went back to each supporter with a complete funding plan. For a $1Million dollar ask, for example, they would ask for the $1Million (a specific number). More than that they would have a discussion around WHY the $1Million and what it would enable the school to do (leverage, leadership, timing, etc). The prospects had a broad 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 30X that we can get 30X.
A rhetorical question: Is it easier for you to visit with every current funder and ASK (10X) or to get ten more prospects to give? From there, is it easier to get your best prospects to 30X or to get 5-10 more visits?
“When people talk to themselves, it’s called insanity. When organizations talked to themselves, it’s called Strategic Planning.”
Most ‘Strategic Plans’ are INTERNAL… where we are literally talking to ourselves! They are a 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’!
“EVERYBODY HAS A ‘PLAN’ UNTIL FIRST CONTACT WITH THE ENEMY.”
“EVERYBODY HAS A PLAN UNTIL THEY GET HIT.”
“MAN PLANS. GOD LAUGHS.”
P.S. I feel the same way about ‘Business Plans’, but I’ll save that rant for
START WITH A 1,000-DAY ACTION PLAN.
There is too much to do… too many lives to save and impact…
to get caught up in ‘strategery’.
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).
Include 90-Day Goals and Priorities. Monthly Checklists and Measurement.
P.S. Match this with a 1,000-Day FUNDING PLAN and you will be on your
way to success.
I’ve never worked for the State Department but I know someone who has. Last week I was on the road and spent an afternoon with a campaign champion in California. He introduced a piece of State Department lexicon: ‘The Action Forcing Event’.
The organization I’m working with has a number of pending commitments. We’re using the executive director’s scheduled retirement (March 2008) as a reason for investors to finalize their commitments. This reason, he explained to me, is called an Action Forcing Event (AFE).
He went on to explain that in the government you sometimes have to make up an AFE just to get stuff done.
We can all be using AFE’s as part of our case/rationale for support around WHY we need the commitment NOW. Applied, this could be:
- A ground breaking event
- Campaign timeline
- A symbolic date
Without an AFE you are at the ‘complete’ mercy of the prospect’s timeline. Without an AFE the pending process can (and often does) drag on indefinitely.
I would encourage you to create an Action Forcing Event as part of your strategy for every visit. It’s not often that a visit results in a check on-the-spot so think about ‘timing’ as part of your presentation.
Jim Yoder is one of my closest friends (since our days together at Notre Dame) and a former partner of The Suddes Group. Jim has been running/managing large campaigns for over 20 years. He is currently working on a $1.5M Campaign for Economic Development (over 5 years) in a small community in North Carolina.
He has spent 3 DAYS…
EVERY OTHER WEEK…
FOR THE LAST 3 MONTHS
working on this Funding Initiative.
He has made:
100 VISITS… 100 SHOULDER-TO-SHOULDER, FACE-TO-FACE, EYEBALL-TO-EYEBALL PRESENTATIONS… IN JUST THOSE 18 DAYS!!!
Oh, and by the way, Jim has never met any of those prospects/potential investors personally before he made that visit… AND he Presented the Opportunity for them to make an investment (JUST ASK) in almost every single instance!
I told Jim that 100 visits in those 18 days was more than most Development Officers and Major Gift Officers Make in a year.
HOW MANY VISITS ARE YOU/YOUR ORG MAKING THIS WEEK???