I have found it’s very tempting to believe that the path to improved results in any field lies in some advanced strategy currently beyond our reach. Whereas in truth, you can very often achieve a transformational uplift by improving the way you apply the fundamentals of your craft.
For example, I recently helped a charity to win a corporate partnership worth more than £350,000 by more thoroughly and creatively attempting to understand the psychology of who they were pitching to.
In my new book, The Fundraiser Who Wanted More, Claire, the main character, improves her results when she learns to properly apply five key principles of fundraising. One of these is described to her by her mentor Mark as:
The Second Law – The Law of Understanding
‘You can best influence someone if you have first understood and appreciated their world.’
In this excerpt from the book, Mark goes on to explain what he means:
‘…Said differently, this is the ‘Law of Saying as Little as Possible Till You’ve Understood as Much as You Can about The Other Person.’
‘Okay, that makes sense – so you need an elevator pitch?’
Mark twitched his head slightly to one side.
‘We tend not to use that phrase, because to us it gives the impression that you should be able to say something brief, when talking to someone you barely know, that is designed to get the other person to want to support you. And near the start of a conversation, we have not found it is possible or necessarily desirable to aim to “pitch” anything to them. To us, “pitching” sounds too forward, and could cause a fundraiser to destroy what little rapport they may have achieved that early in the conversation.’
‘Well okay’ said Claire, ‘I guess that makes sense. So it’s not a pitch. So what do you say then?’
‘Good question, which I’ll answer in a minute. And an even more important question is not what do you say, but why do you say it?’
‘Why? Well, because they asked you.’
Be very brief, then help them want to talk…
‘Well yes, they probably did ask you. But my main objective in answering is not to tell them everything, but to find a way to help them want to tell me some things early on. Because you know it’s not possible to really give a proper explanation of just how amazing your charity is until you have understood even some basic things about the other person.
‘And what about research? With the companies, trusts and donors I’m talking to, I’m finding out whatever I can on-line long before the meeting stage in the relationship. What does the law of understanding say about that?’
‘It says that if you’re invited to a formal pitch of some kind, you have to gather your insight in advance of the pitch. And in the context of corporate fundraising, whichever fundraiser worked harder to truly understand the actual reasons why the members of the panel would say “yes”, has the edge in winning the pitch. But even in corporate fundraising, the pitch is not the most common format for persuading people to support you.
‘In corporate, community, event and major donor fundraising, by all means do as much research as you can before you meet them … but still the most effective meeting strategy is to help the other person want to talk to you early on. I appreciate that doing this in practice is easier with some donors than others, it should always be what we intend to have happen early in the meeting. Because, when you think about it, we can’t help someone at a deep level before we’ve understood them.’
‘And what about supporters you’ve met before and know well?’
‘Good question. Yes, I even carry out the same idea with donors I know really well. I am going to resist the urge to dive into any detail about whatever proposal or new fundraising idea I want to discuss, until I’ve helped them talk to me, so I can tune into and appreciate their world. Everyone sees and internally represents things slightly differently. The better I understand those things, the more easily I can choose what to say and how to say it, in line with both what they care about and even how they like to communicate.’
To find about The Fundraiser Who Wanted More, click here.