Episode 33: Paul Davies – Generating major gifts momentum

Episode Notes

What can you do to build relationships, warm, generous relationships with major donor supporters, even during the pandemic?

If you are a high value fundraiser, or you manage one, I hope you will find this episode helpful and encouraging as I talk to someone whose fundraising practice, confidence and RESULTS have soared over the last six months.

Paul is Head of Communications and Development for the orchestra and charity Manchester Camerata. Paul attended Bright Spot’s Major Gifts Mastery Programme between January and June 2020, meaning that he has been trying out the ideas and improving his strategies as the pandemic has unfolded.

In this conversation, Paul explains a range of ideas that he has used to transform his results, including: what he focuses on to feel so confident and excited when meeting supporters; how he has dramatically increased the number of donors he talks to, from four or five per month, to twenty per month and the amazing momentum this activity has created for their new appeal; and how one donor was recently inspired to give the largest donation the charity has ever received.

If you want to share this episode because you think it will help colleagues or other good causes – THANK YOU VERY MUCH! –  we are both on Linked In and on twitter, where Paul is @paulj_davies and I am @woods_rob.

Key Takeaways

SET YOUR INTENTION – Before every meeting, Paul gets clear that his intention is not to ‘get’ (eg money) but to ‘give’ – ie help the other party have a great meeting. He has let go of attachment to a monetary outcome that serves his charities’ needs, however worthy that cause might be. In doing so, he has freed himself to speak and act naturally, to care, rather than to force the meeting towards something the other person may not be interested in.

LISTEN MORE, SPEAK LESS ABOUT YOUR CHARITY, THEN MATCH – In the early part of meetings, Paul no longer feels the need to talk nearly so much about his charity. Rather, he’s interested in the other person. Later on, he is able to talk, but what he talks about is informed by what the other person cares about.

MORE CONVERSATIONS – Paul has achieved stunning results – including a fabulous start to the appeal, raising a third of the total target in just two weeks – for many reasons, but none is more important than increasing the time he spends in conversation with his supporters. This was four or five chats / month before he attended the Major Gifts Mastery Programme, and is now an average of twenty chats / month.

CALL TO REQUEST A CHAT LATER – There are many tactics fundraisers learn on the Mastery Programme to increase their momentum in this way, but Paul’s most powerful tactic is to call his supporters (assuming he has a number and GDPR permission) to request a chance to talk in the near future. Done with the right friendly, respectful tone he has found this is incredibly effective.

FIND AND INCLUDE REAL EXAMPLES PROACTIVELY – On the Mastery Programme Paul learned to use a Bright Spot tool called the Magic Formula (for being more interesting and able to inspire), which has helped him hugely, for instance in securing the largest gift his charity has ever received. One crucial element that we’ve found most fundraisers mis-understand and under-estimate is ways to proactively use real examples / stories to help supporters feel inspired to solve a problem they care about.

Further Resources

If you’d like to find out more about our Major Gifts Mastery Programme which helps you increase trust and major donor income during the pandemic, you can find out all about it through the link above – or feel free to get in touch through the Contact section if you have questions.

If you’d like more powerful strategies to help you raise funds during the pandemic, then there are lots of different approaches in my new free E-book: Power Through The Pandemic – Seven ways to raise money with major donors, corporates and trusts, even now. You can download it for FREE here: brightspotfundraising.co.uk/power

Quotes

‘Once lockdown hit, the Mastery Programme became even more helpful… really timely for me because it was like having this sounding board, this support around you, and someone running alongside you spurring you on. So it’s been gold to me.’

Paul Davies

‘We’re two weeks into our Appeal, which is a big amount, and we’ve raised a third of our target so far, and we’ve also received our largest ever gift. We’ve obviously got a long way to go, but everything I’ve learned on this course has helped get us to this point.’

Paul Davies

Full Transcript

Rob:

Hello, and welcome to episode 33 of the Fundraising Bright Spots Podcast. My name is Rob woods, and this is the show for anyone who works in fundraising, and who wants ideas for how to raise more money, really enjoy their job, and make a bigger difference, even during the pandemic.

Firstly, thank you ever so much to everyone who’s been sharing episodes of this podcast with your followers on social media and with your colleagues. I really do appreciate your help in spreading the word so that as many charities as possible can benefit from the ideas. And if you’re a major donor fundraiser or you manage someone who is, and you try to stay forever curious about ways to improve your skills and your results, then I hope you’re going to find today’s episode useful because, today, I’m excited to share an interview with an excellent fundraiser named Paul Davies.

Paul works for a fantastic orchestra and charity called Manchester Camerata. And I first met him in January, 2020, when he began the Major Gifts Mastery Programme that we run, over six months, for major donor and trust fundraisers. I wanted Paul to share some of his learnings and fundraising experiences on the podcast because, not only has he made wonderful use of the ideas from the course, including securing the largest major gift his charity has ever received, and getting several other stunning results to get their brand new appeal off to the best possible start in its first two weeks, but also because I noticed, through our conversations, that he’s thought deeply about many crucial concepts that make a big difference to the results you get, and because I’ve found he has a really fresh engaging way of explaining these distinctions.

I’ve come away from all my conversations with Paul more focused on certain key ideas that make a difference and, just as important, more energized by fundraising altogether. I really hope you enjoy this Bright Spot conversation too.

This episode of the Fundraising Bright Spots Podcast is brought to you by Bright Spot Mastery Programmes. So, if you need to increase income in corporate partnerships or major donor and trust fundraising, these programs will help. As well as the advanced strategies you learn on the training days, you receive one to one coaching to help you put those powerful techniques into practice. To find out more about the Corporate Mastery and Major Gift Mastery Programmes, head over to brightspotfundraising.co.uk.

Rob:

Paul Davis, how are you?

Paul Davies:

I’m well, thank you. Yes. How’re you doing?

Rob:

Yeah, very good, thank you. Thanks for making time to chat so that the listener or the viewer can get a sense of it. You work for Manchester Camerata. You’re head of communications and development. Do you want to give us a tiny top line bit about that charity.

Paul Davies:

So we’re an orchestra and charity that, essentially, puts communities first and then we do many different things. Whether that’s playing and touring Mozart, whether it’s doing an orchestral rave at Glastonbury or pioneering dementia therapy, and we make a difference to people’s lives.

Rob:

Fantastic. Yes. And I’ve enjoyed, over the last six months, hearing a little bit more about the difference the charity makes, because you took part in the Major Gifts Mastery Programme, this year, for the first six months of 2020. Just before we get into some of the key things you learned, what was it like to do the Major Gifts Mastery Programme anyway? And, I guess, this year of all years.

Paul Davies:

It was really nice meeting everyone, initially, and there was a real fraternity of, we’re all fundraisers, we’ve all got these opportunities and challenges and fears in doing the job, and all of that, and kind of it was a real community, and really nice to share that experience with people, and get to know other people, and learn from what they’re doing. And then lockdown hit and it became even more helpful, and almost like really timely for me because it was like having this sounding board and support around you, and someone running alongside you almost spurring you on. So it’s been gold to me.

Rob:

Fantastic. Yeah. Many people have said that, having that group of people in their corner, doing their best to raise philanthropic gifts, even at this difficult time, just that solidarity, has been hugely helpful in addition to the content. And in terms of some of the key distinctions you learned from the training days or through the coaching, you and I had a chat the other day and you were telling me some really interesting bits of progress you’ve made in your understanding and in your practice. So do you want to tell me what one or two of the things that you’ve taken from the program.

Paul Davies:

So it’s fundamentally helped my confidence and almost my mindset to fundraising. So I feel like how I approach meetings, how I conduct meetings or events or coffees is just completely different. I kind of go to meetings really excited and almost more curious than I ever did, and open, and kind of focus on making the person I’m meeting, their life better or easier in some way and finding out more about them, and their world, than going to talk, which was … it was kind of … it was more talk than listen, before, and I’ve really benefited from that. And I enjoy it so much more now, and it’s so much more effective, and it’s a lot more about the relationship, and kind of marinating in that, and seeing the fruits of it.

Rob:

Yeah. It makes such a difference. I know it’s kind of easy to say, and many of us are aware of the importance of truly being open to hearing how the other person is doing, and everybody talks about the importance of listening but, actually, in practice, early in one’s career as a fundraiser, it can be surprisingly hard to do that in practice. So what would you say about kind of how you’ve made that shift and the implications that now you have made that shift to have the confidence to approach meetings in that more of a win-win way. How’s that come about? Or what are the implications of that for you?

Paul Davies:

Sometimes a lot of things to say about your charity, and sometimes … when I say talk more than listen, sometimes … there was sometimes a feeling of pressure that I must not leave any stone unturned about our charity, rather than just really quickly give a bit of an overview and then just listen and relax into the conversation and then, as people are people, you focus on what they care about and where there’s mutual grounds and a matching to be hard, rather than every … because everything we do is really amazing but it’s not necessarily of interest to everybody.

It’s just kind of grasping that whole … it’s so obvious when you say it out loud but it’s transformational really. And that win-win … I think that’s the mindset of, fundraising isn’t a dirty word. It’s not all about money. How I approach meetings really is now a system that makes people feel good. If you’re giving to something you care about, that makes you feel good and it makes good stuff happen, and so it’s, like you say, it’s win-win. And that mindset has been a real gear change. And it makes the whole thing just really enjoyable.

Rob:

Yeah, it absolutely does. A) that makes each of those meetings enjoyable. B) it helps solve another important challenge for a fundraiser, which is the excitement and enthusiasm to go the extra mile to get more conversations, because they’re going well, rather than sometimes they’re a bit awkward and pressured.

Paul Davies:

Yes. So we’ve just launched a, what is our recovery appeal during COVID and we’ve taken a really considered approach. We’ve taken our time about it. We did nothing knee jerk and that came from fundamentally why we exist, and what impact we want to make. It’s not just about survival, it’s about what impact we want to make with people’s investment in us.

And so that’s kind of been a considered approach but now I’m at the stage of talking to people about it. I’m prioritizing getting meetings in my diary and my diary hasn’t been fuller. Like I could be doing, say, a handful of meetings a month. Now I’ve got six key meetings a week, which are really important meetings in my diary. And I’ve found that just jumping on the phone to somebody, I was saying to you, that the amount of yoga classes or leisure activities I’ve interrupted by just calling people, and it’s been super productive because I’m interacting.

I’ve got a little informal interaction with them, which you kind of … is helpful, anyway, because you find things out about people and it just helps your relationship already. And kind of, when you go into the meeting, you’ve got a bit of a human connection, anyway, because you know what’s going on in their life, and it all helps you just to, again, it’s just relationship building but it’s nuances that really matter.

Rob:

So a couple of things I wanted to pick up on there. The first one, did you say that, before, six months ago, you might’ve had three or four conversations with supporters a month and now you’re up to five or six a week?

Paul Davies:

Yeah. So that’s quite a big turnaround but the game changer has been just getting on the phone. Emails just take forever. And email is just something for us all to do and yet picking up the phone just helps the relationship but also gets stuff done. I just feel more productive for it. And then it has a knock on effect in terms of the cash raised as well.

Rob:

Yeah. And, as you know, this is such a key theme of my philosophy on fundraising or, certainly, high value fundraising, and I’ve been talking to lots of other people who’ve made this kind of a shift. So just to be clear for the listener, it’s not appropriate to be calling people who don’t support your charity, but when they already care, and they already support you, and you’ve got their phone number, and therefore it is appropriate for you to make contact in this way, rather than the safer feeling way of sending an email.

Your experience of becoming braver in that way has been richly rewarded, and it sounds like it’s one of the key reasons why you’re getting so many conversations with people who care about your cause now, and it’s not surprising that also that’s helping turn into results. Just one thing to pick up is usually don’t pick up the phone and then expect to have the whole conversation there and then but, rather than send an email to request a proper chat, you pick up the phone to request a proper chat. Often they pick up and then they’re only too happy to put something in the diary for next week, for instance.

Paul Davies:

Yeah. And it’s always … because I considered chat and conversation with people, but it’s always that, what’s next, which is another thing that was really useful on the course. I think my mindset sometimes was … and it’s just your negative chatter. Sometimes it can be on the negative side than positive. So with just calling someone, and it is our supporters, it would be … they might think I’m bothering them or I can’t just interrupt their life or maybe I can’t … and they’re just barriers.

And actually I had one person say, “Lovely to hear your voice.” And this was somebody that I’ve had a growing relationship with, but I … it’s grown all the more because of that and now I’m having really enjoyable meetings with them and it, yeah, it’s going well. So, but it’s almost that next. What’s the follow up? What’s the next step? And, again, I’m not being pushy by saying that because it’s a, “This was great. When can I talk? When can we check in?” Or just setting a next day and a next action.

Rob:

Yes. And that, again, it sounds easy and obvious, in a way, but one only relaxes into feeling that that is the most natural thing in the world to say if you’ve truly embraced the philosophy that people enjoy giving to a cause they care about, which is different from where some charities are at, which is, “Please can I get money so that we can pay for stuff.”

You’ve taken to heart one of the exercises we did in the program that really helps us emotionally embrace the notion that, if someone ends up giving generously to a cause they care about, their life does not become poorer. Generally, their life becomes richer in the deepest sense of the word.

Paul Davies:

And, in the same way, this helps with rejection for want of a better word. Not everybody wants to give to our charity and that’s right and true enough because our charity, like other charities, is amazing. We make an amazing impact. But, in terms of, if you get a no, or a no right now, you know, it’s not for me right now, but maybe it will be in the future.

That’s all good. And it almost … it helps you manage your own expectations. And I know it comes into you doing your research and all of that but sometimes it’s even in the conversation you … that’s all good. That’s not a bad thing or something that you need to kick yourself about. It’s all part of it and it’s really exciting. And, again, it has real impact. They make real impact with us.

Rob:

Yeah. And part of that, not taking it personally, being okay whether they decide they do want to give today for their reasons, or they don’t want to give today for their reasons, being okay with that comes right back to one of the fundamental things we were talking about earlier, which is, your goal is not to go out and get money or get people to give money. But if a key goal is to go and have as many conversations as you can with people who care about this cause, then you’re just working the process and some of those people, for their reasons, are going to be moved to want to give.

Paul Davies:

Yeah. And when I am asking people to consider giving a contribution and we can be specific talking about an amount of money, that again, I feel I can be … I relax into that. It’s not a, “Oh, this is the bit,” or, “This is the part where we’re talking about supporting us,” or. I feel happy about it. I feel I can actually be quite direct about it and then you’re … you know the person you’re talking to, but yeah, I think that’s the better I can say it, you’re relaxed into it. I feel like it’s a … it excites me. It doesn’t unnerve me.

Rob:

And I think I remember, at one point, you said that having all some fundamental principles of good steps in a good donor meeting, something I called the fundraiser’s donor meeting checklist. You mentioned that tool you found really helpful and, even after all this experience, you still look at that most days before your meetings.

Paul Davies:

Yes.

Rob:

Without mentioning any names or giving away any details, could you just bring to life, for instance, with one example, you’re pleased with, of a meeting or asked meeting that’s gone well.

Paul Davies:

Yes. Okay. So we started this fundraising appeal a couple of weeks ago. And one of the first meetings I did was with a current supporter. And I went through all this in my mind beforehand and I kind of got myself in the zone. I’ve always been very prepared for meetings before I did this course but, sometimes, I could even be hastily walking to a meeting or … and what I’m doing now is zoning into everything I’ve learned and that mindset, before I go to a meeting, and a key part that is how can I, as I’ve said, make life easier for this other person and really listen to them.

So this meeting we had, quite early on, I talked the person through our plan, and I started off with the problem we’re facing, and our solution, and the impact we want to make, which was very impact driven and focused which … and all the things that chime with this person, specifically, and they have given us what is the largest gift an individual has ever given our charity. And it’s a five figure gift but it’s a significant amount and everybody feels good about it.

Rob:

Yeah. But I guess there’s also knock on effects of that huge result in terms of morale for your colleagues or even some of the musicians who might be … understandably, some of their morale might be taking some knocks in the last four months. The implications of you helping that donor do a wonderful, generous thing are far reaching.

Paul Davies:

Yeah. And interestingly enough, that was one of the very things that helped that person give more than they actually said in the meeting initially. And they were almost asking me to help them see the higher amount. And that was one of the things that really, really did it for them because our musicians are, as we all know, at home, redundant, their livelihood is at risk, but their mental health is as well. And we need to get them playing again for them, and for our communities, and that really resonated with the person.

Rob:

Congratulations, Paul, for putting all this into practice. At this stage of the appeal you literally launched a couple of weeks ago and, I don’t want to jinx anything, everybody knows that these things are a long haul. However well you’re doing, however generous donors are being, we must not be complacent. But, two weeks in, what are the results, so far, that you could be pleased with?

Paul Davies:

So we are at a third at the target and it’s a big amount, the target, and we’re a third of the way within two weeks. But, again, I can only say that’s testament to this course.

Rob:

Thank you. Congratulations on all the hard work involved. And so, Paul, in terms of distinctions you’ve learned about what to say when it’s our turn to do the talking about how our charity makes a difference, I remember you said that using real examples has become clearer for you and easier for you. Could you give me an example of how you might use real example or story when you’re talking to some supporters?

Paul Davies:

What’s helpful is now I can quickly spot where we are trying to get something in that’s clearly important to us and is, no doubt, important but it’s essentially filler. And it’s cutting out … it’s almost like what you don’t say. What you cut out. Because essentially it could all be important but what’s going to chime with a donor. And I always keep saying to the team, “Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a donor.”

And that’s not disregarding our plan but, by putting yourself in the shoes of that donor, you’re going to get that match in your head because that’s … the match bit is the only way you’re going to get support. So it’s been really helpful in spotting and helping the team spot what’s filler.

There’s a young guy we work with who has dementia and he’s in his thirties. And so we work with people who … older people who have dementia but people who have young onset. That can be quite early on. And so this young man used to be in a band. He loves and adores music and had had quite a rich musical life. And at the start of the sessions that we were doing, he just looked very withdrawn and almost like he wasn’t in the room, and didn’t say much. Wasn’t very verbal, really. And was quite withdrawn and insular. And, almost like, just looked numb, almost, within his eyes. And so when we started the music session and making music, which is … it’s essentially a conversation without words. He was sat on a cajon drum, that you can and you can sit on and you can bash, and he just lit up.

But when I say lit up, he was fully connected with the room and he looked happy. And that light that I could see in his eyes just made my day. I loved witnessing it. And I’ve been to so many sessions, and I see it every time and this is somebody who … I’m in a band. I write songs. I make music. And I do that weekly. And for this guy, he did that. And now this is giving him that back. But it’s him. He’s doing it. He’s expressing himself. And it’s just seeing somebody switched back on, almost, and it’s profound, and it’s great. It’s a joy to see.

Rob:

And just hearing you share that, I feel it, I get it, I connect. So is that the kind of example you’ve been sharing … you’ve been more likely to share proactively to a supporter now compared to, say, six months ago.

Paul Davies:

Yeah. And it’s the transformational … so it’s going from what dementia looks like and feels like, what’s the lived experience of that, to what life can look like for somebody with dementia and music therapy in their life. And I see it in people’s eyes as I’m in a meeting with them. I see them get it because I’m talking about something that matters. It’s real. And I’ve experienced it, and felt it, and I can authentically pass that on somebody else.

And, of course, we invite people to see the sessions for themselves. And that’s all part of the process of engaging and involving somebody but, even in a meeting, even in a meeting when I’m saying that to somebody else, and it’s a real story, it has impact for somebody.

Rob:

So, Paul, thank you ever so much for giving up your time to share these insights, these little stories, to help the listener or viewer understand more about high value fundraising. I really appreciate it. Huge congratulations on the progress you’ve made and the success of your new appeal so far. I think that’s amazing, especially this year of all years, and, especially, for an arts charity, of all the kinds of cause. That you’re proving that it’s doable is really inspiring to me and I hope that the listener will find it helpful too. I look forward to catching up with you again soon but, for now, best of luck with your fundraising.

Paul Davies:

Thank you. Thank you so much. Bye.

Rob:

Bye bye. Well, I hope you enjoyed this interview with the irrepressible Paul Davies of Manchester Camerata. You can see a summary of the key ideas we discuss in the episode notes on the blog and podcast section of our website, which is brightspotfundraising.co.uk.

You can experience the same level of training and coaching support that Paul did through our Major Gifts Mastery Programme and our Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme. Both programs start again in October, 2020, and, at the time of publishing this episode, we’re accepting bookings at the early bird discount. We’ve run these programs for the last six years, helping hundreds of fundraisers, like Paul, to lift their skills and results. But, please be aware, they always sell out. So, if you’re interested, do head over to our website to find out more, which is brightspotfundraising.co.uk/services.

If you’d like to share today’s episode with your colleagues or friends, thank you ever so much. As I say, it helps us to get these ideas to reach and help more and more charities. And, if you want to get in touch, Paul’s Twitter name is at @PaulJ_Davies, and I am @Woods_Rob, and we’re both on LinkedIn.

Finally, thank you so much for listening today. I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to sharing more Bright Spot ideas next week.