For Impact


Notes from the Field: On the Economy

Blog, Change | | Nick Fellers

I’ve been living ‘in the field’ for the past few months. Here are a few thoughts on the economy and some stories about how we’re responding.

  • Massive Action

    This is a Tony Robbins principle. Basically, do what works and do a ton of it – massive action and you will be successful. It’s actually a pretty simple concept. It just requires discipline and faith. The discipline (in this case) to keep lining up visits and the faith to know it will be very good for your organization.

    On one campaign we’re ‘activating’ 20 prospects every week (new + existing relationships). This means we’re doing strategy, sending out predisposition and following up to schedule visits. Our goal is 60 visits in the next 100 days. That’s massive action… and proving to be successful.

  • Trendwatching: The ‘economy’ is the current objection.

    It’s natural to hear an objection (at first) in any economy. A lot of people/gatekeepers are using the economy as the objection-de-jour. In several months, or a year, you’re going to hear, “Now that the economy is turning around we’re being flooded with requests… it’s not really a good time.”

    Keep in mind, ‘the economy’ is not a valid objection until you’ve been able to share your case for support. Until you’re able to do that, you’re ‘just another nonprofit looking for a handout’. You and I both know you’re not ‘just another nonprofit looking for a handout.’ You’re a wonderful For Impact organization that’s changing the world. Persevere so you can share your story.

    I’ve made 62 visits since October 10 (and coached people through even more). I’ve had a TOTAL of THREE ‘economy rejections’. These were three corporations that were putting ALL giving on hold. And, to be fair, they weren’t rejections – they were just issues with timing.

  • Even if your glass is half empty – it’s still half full.

    Again, 62 visits! We’re generating tons of commitments/cash and I only have three real rejections.

    Many orgs are putting campaigns on hold – citing the economy. Let me be real – the economy comes up in conversations (more on that later) – but not everyone is hurting and even rejections are just issues with timing… Even when a prospect cites the economy we’re still being asked to submit a request! Something like this: “We’re not receiving many requests right now because we/I don’t have much money to give. That being said, please let me know what you need… when the faucet turns back on I want you to be first in line.”

    Read that last line again and again.

  • So what are we hearing?

    Most of the questions about the economy are coming from prospects asking about ‘the funding landscape’ and other prospects. On a visit yesterday the prospect asked, “Aren’t you worried about the economy? Are others going to give right now?”

    Notice he was NOT talking about himself. He was asking about others. He was asking about the perception, the plan, the landscape. I’m finding this to be the most common discussion about the economy – about OTHER PEOPLE. It’s not an objection – he still committed to $50,000.

    We told him (and tell others) this:

    1. Now is a great time for us to be making visits – because no one else is.
    2. We’re not getting many rejections because of the economy – but it’s something everyone does ask about – just as he did.
    3. Even when we do get a rejection, it’s not a ‘no’ – we’re hearing that we’re going to be a number one priority when the ‘faucet turns back on’.
    4. We are taking ‘massive action’… increasing the number of visits mostly to deal with the ‘perception’ of the economy but also (to be pragmatic) so that we can overcome challenges through action.
    5. We REALLY view the key to success as RELATIONSHIPS, not transactions. It’s a great time to be out building relationships… even with those that can’t give.

    6. And, most importantly, our mission hasn’t stopped so we can’t stop taking this important story to the community and having great discussions like this.
  • We are getting creative with mechanics.

    One way to respond to the economy is to be creative. Last week we met with a major prospect for $1.0M. She had been predisposed for months. Her company had lost 77% of its value in the markets.

    We put together a strategy to ask for $1.0M.

    • She was not able to commit to the full $1.0M citing timing/markets
    • But agreed that she wanted to make the commitment and the project was an important priority.
    • Our solution was put together a gift that included cash + planned gift to equal $1.0M with the idea that the planned gift portion included an option to be converted to cash/pledge if the markets turned around. (AND THEY WILL)

    The prospect loved this idea – made the commitment – and even started a discussion about keeping the planned gift in place after/if she was able to convert the balance to cash.

    Not every gift is a creative request for $1.0M. If someone is not able to commit as much because of the economy we’ve been responding with something like this, “That makes sense and it’s completely understandable. Would it be okay if we kept this dialogue open [about funding the full project] – revisiting it every few months? We all know this will turn around and it would be great to keep open communication about where we are and where you are.”

  • Time for change.

    I’ve watched more than a few boards/leadership finally decide it’s time to change. I think ‘the economy’ forces a discussion that’s been tabled for months or years at many orgs. There is always sense that ‘we can deal with the funding problems at the next board meeting’. Not now…

    Seeing some real discussions. Real change – in a very positive way.

  • Doubles.

    Of the 62 visits (some with new relationships, some with existing) five have stepped up to offer larger that usual gifts. One investor said, “I feel like it’s my responsibility to give more right now because others can’t. I feel like it’s an opportunity to make a difference at a time when it’s needed and valued the most.”

    Cool. Wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t ‘in the field’ having the discussions.