In my new book, The Fundraiser Who Wanted More, the heroine struggles to feel confident when dealing with important, wealthy, older donors.
She learns the fourth law of persuasion in fundraising, which is about the extraordinary difference your state makes to your ability to confidently influence both colleagues and donors. She learns that there are three keys to changing how you feel, for example, from nervous / inferior, to confident / persuasive. One of these keys to managing your state is the words you habitually use. Obviously choosing particular words can make a difference to how a donor feels, but she discovers that becoming more aware of how you talk to yourself is even more important.
Here are two examples as food for thought:
- Your words affect your self-identity.
Four months ago I coached a fundraising manager who had been asked to assume the role of ‘Acting Head of Events’. Two months into the role, she lamented that some of her colleagues did not respect her as she would like. I suggested that from that moment on, she would never again refer to herself as the ‘acting’ head of events, but only ever as the Head of Events. This included removing the word ‘acting’ from the footer of her email.
As she made this shift, she said that people started treating her differently, and within three months she told me that her manager had made her role permanent. This tiny change in how she labelled her role had had a subtle but undeniable effect on how she went about her business. Because she was now behaving more boldly and confidently, other people reacted differently and the self-fulfilling prophesy worked in her favour.
Does your current job title help or hinder you? You may not be able to change the official one, but could you boost your performance with a stronger psychological label, even if you only use it in your own head?
- Your words affect your ability to invite people to give.
Many fundraisers find themselves getting worried when they think about future conversations with powerful donors. Two very common questions I hear fundraisers asking are ‘how can I get him to open up and talk?’ and ‘how are we going to get her to give?’ If these questions were running through my head, I’d feel gut-wrenchingly nervous too.
When you think about it, the word ‘get’ implies coercion, which is unlikely to be appropriate or successful. For a donor to talk freely about their interests, they must genuinely want to do this. Similarly, for any gift to be made, it obviously must be something they truly want to do, for their reasons.
Can you see that if we use the word ‘get’ in our planning, we channel our thinking into a mode that is about manipulation. Instead, prepare by asking yourself something like: ‘I wonder how we could help her want to make a gift?’
The truth is, the precise words we use can make a surprisingly big difference in how we feel and therefore behave. And how we behave makes a big difference to the results we generate.
The first stage to reaping the benefit from this idea is to become aware of our existing language patterns. This greater awareness enables us to choose the words that are most likely to help donors achieve great results for themselves and the people or animals our charity serves.