How massively-successful fundraisers stay inspired

In an inspiring evening this week, Alan Clayton helped his audience understand his tried and tested techniques for achieving positive change. The examples he gave showed that the same fundamental patterns succeed whether you’re making a change for yourself (eg changing your job) or for your team (eg doubling your team’s fundraising results).

He explained that to make fire you need all three ingredients (oxygen, heat and fuel), rather than just two. In the same way, achieving more and living better, requires all three of the ingredients focus, motivation and inspiration.

If you think of a time you have failed to stick to a diet or new habit that you knew would help your fundraising, it’s highly likely that the key ingredient missing was inspiration.

The rocket-fuelled question most people fail to ask themselves enough

So what is inspiration? It’s the emotional energy that compels you to take action, without needing tons of will power every time. How do you get it? By letting go of ‘What will we do?’ and ‘How will we do it?’ and instead repeatedly asking yourself the question ‘Why?’ as in ‘Why must I do it?’

When you find the bottle to ask yourself ‘why?’ just one more time, sooner or later you come across what Alan calls the raw emotional cut-through that changes ‘the craving to change’ into ‘the compulsion to act’.

He described one such moment, during a pitch in 2003, that ignited the desire on the part of Tesco to choose and get behind the idea of partnership with Alzheimer’s Society, a partnership which raised a record-breaking £7 million.

You can create this physiological reaction as follows…

For several years I’ve found that focussing on why I want to do something, before I know how to do it practically, makes all the difference. In fact this is a key reason why my Major Gift and Corporate Mastery Programmes help people take more bold action, which in turn generates results. What Alan brought brilliantly to life was the science behind why this technique is like adding rocket fuel to your engine.

It’s because when we could take action, but don’t, invariably it’s because at some fundamental level we associate more pain to taking action than to not taking action. One of the biggest reasons we procrastinate is that we fear looking stupid.

Alan reminded us, if you want to find the juice to get yourself or your team really going, setting only SMART goals doesn’t work, because ‘realistic’ or ‘achievable’ feel too comfortable. Remaining in your comfort zone, safe though it seems, is actually energy-sapping because you’re left relying on self-discipline to get things done. Instead you need something to aim for that you really want and that dream must feel ‘just scary enough’ to get you going. The Paralympic athlete Karen Darke I interviewed described these as WIBAs (as in Wouldn’t It Be Amazing…)

When you focus on your dream / WIBA, and why you want it, as long as it is just scary enough, your system will release the hormone dopamine. And biochemically, dopamine changes the whole game. Critically, it provides you with a drive to act that is more powerful than the fear which had kept you from acting.

When you think about it, there are certainly times in your life you have felt this change, when you have just had enough and so the ‘craving to change’ (which could have been there for days, months or years) turned into the ‘compulsion to act’. In explaining how this process works, Alan inspired his audience to deliberately harness the power of emotional inspiration as a crucial ingredient to achieve our fundraising and personal dreams.

Alan says that repeatedly asking yourself ‘why’ is pretty simple – even if it’s not always easy. But if you really do want to make big progress with your key project / donor today, spending more energy exploring your personal ‘why’ is certainly a shrewd place to start.

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