Go to almost any fundraising seminar, training or workshop - particularly those where fundraisers are training volunteers to help with fundraising - and you're likely to hear some or all of the above. I'm speaking from personal experience. I've done these presentations for organizations raising money with endurance or experiential events and consistently heard these ideas when I started working in the charitable sector.
Ironically, these five tips and several others could be applied to - you guessed it - Cold Calling. So if this is what we as fundraisers suggest, why do many of us balk at the idea of making making cold calls? I'm not a behavioral analyst so I'm not going there; however, I'm sure it would be a lot of fun to tackle the question. Just for fun though, I think the following joke illustrates how deep seated this fear is:
Executive Director: Did you reach out to some new prospects today?
Fundraiser: Absolutely - we got 5 with no problem at all.
Executive Director: Really! Do you think they’ll result in an ask or donation?
Fundraiser: Well, If it turns out my mom, dad, brother, cousin, hairdresser, and babysitter are interested in supporting us, definitely!
OK, a bit of a stretch but you have to some fun.. Of course it's easy to suggest doing these so I wanted to provide three real ideas for getting started. And these apply whether you're in the charitable sector or working in business development in the for profit sector:
1) Pick a baseline number of calls you plan to make. Make it reachable - even underestimate it. Carve out a time in your day - my suggestion is first thing in the morning - and hit it. I'm suggesting morning as (speaking for myself) that's when I'm at my best. But choose your poison. If you thrive after lunch, go for it! If dinner is your hour, great - you'll get them but they may be chewing.And an important phrase to remember: No more and No less. Chances are that first week, there will be a day where you hit your baseline and you're killing it. Everyone is a big fat YES. Stop right at your number (let's call it 10). Why? There will be another day where it's not going quite as well and you'll be tempted to stop at 6 - particularly if you did more another day. Get in the habit of doing that set number - No Matter What.
2) Use and stick to a script. If you're thinking "boring" - maybe but trust me. You'll be much more effective if you know exactly what you want to say as opposed to winging it. Once you're comfortable then you can go rogue. And remember, your script should be all about them (prospects), not you, your organization or why you're just so wonderful. It's about how whatever you may end up offering can help them or their clients. For example, instead of "I'm calling about why you should support XYZ", try "I'm finding that people I talk to in your field are struggling with ABC or are concerned with such and such - how would you describe your feelings, thoughts on..."
3) If you're getting to ask some questions, you're getting somewhere - If you get a commitment to meet, you've arrived (at the first stop at least). And keep the questions open ended! (Very important). Nothing kills these calls quicker than a straight yes or no. Remember, the idea of this call isn't too get a donation or purchase. The goal is 1) to learn more about the prospect, their interests and goals and 2) Set a firm meeting time and 3) Establish a rapport so you're meeting feel less like a continuation of the cold call and more like the building of something specialSo that's a start.
More to come and always appreciate feedback, thoughts, and alternative views
Put on your spacesuit--We're going to the moon!
While the line above may sound like its straight out of "The Wolf of Wall Street", it’s not far from the truth. Lines like this - and others that were equally obnoxious - were standard fare in brokerage offices in the 80's and even into the 90's. Some, such as the one in "Wolf", were a bit more notorious than others. Lines like the one above were a big part of the cold call cowboy culture that gave Wall Street its swagger. I was fortunate to work at firms like Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley where we were a bit kinder and gentler (at least that was the reputation). But I did spend a bit of time at one that really pushed the envelope; name not necessary (and the firms are long since gone anyway!
No doubt, the reputation of sales as a professional and skilled practice were damaged by the image of aggressive closers using cheesy lines and tactics. The image of the hard-driving, morals astray sales person, has been portrayed in movies, tv and other places. And while admittedly those folks may be out there, I believe there is a higher bar.
One very sad result of this portrayal is damage to the lost art of Prospecting and particularly the Dreaded (but necessary) Cold Call. Before we jump into this ancient but awesome practice, I'll share that I agree with the notion that if you have warm calls to make - a real and established connection - more power to you. Make them! Enjoy them! But do them AFTER you do your daily dose of Cold Calling as a reward for your hard work! Even if you're swamped with warm leads, prospects and existing clients to call, the Cold Call should still be a part of your daily routine whether you work in the corporate or nonprofit sector. I've had the fun of doing it in both.
Cold Calling is the perfect venue to do the following:
And this is just the beginning. The other bonus is that you might actually get a client, new opportunity or more. All in all, a pretty sweet deal for just setting aside 30 minutes a day to do some cold calling in person or on the phone. Both still work. Both still yield results. Both will make you infinitely better at what you do.
If you're not doing this today and see the value in it, start with three simple things:
If you can develop a baseline number of calls, say 10 every day, and fill in info about calls, you'll feel great!
I've titled this Part 1 as its the stater stuff. More parts to follow with details on the call, the script etc. Feel free to write in and share if there are specifics you'd like to hear about or questions you have. This may develop into a bit of a workshop so since I've been in a Jerry McGuire mode, "help me to help you" (remember that?)
I recently had the opportunity to give a talk on volunteering – kind of a Basics, 101 type of thing. Realizing that here in Canada already 50% of the population does some form of volunteering (Ontario is a bit lower at 47% but on the rise) I decided I could easily move well beyond the basics.
Instead of the standard “what is it and how do you do it”, I chose to talk about what could make volunteering a richer experience for THEM. Yes, THEM, you know, the volunteers. By the way, I didn’t mean as opposed to or vs. the organizations and the clients. However, my intention was to hone in on 5 specific actions volunteers could take to ensure for a meaningful experience from their side.
Here’s what I suggested to the group:
1. Assess Your Contributions and Motivations - Assess what skills and/or experience you want to contribute and what you hope to get out of your volunteer experience. And figure out what type of opportunities meet at that particular place. People volunteer for different reasons. Sometimes, they’re simply looking to “do something good.” Other times, volunteers may want to try out new skills, contribute to a particular cause or try building their resume. Find opportunities where you make a contribution and your needs are met as well.
2. Understand Your Impact - Get in the habit of asking organizations about the end goals of your project and how your work contributes to those goals. Charitable organizations measure their impact – so should you. You may not have funders to answer to but your reasons are just as valid. Your volunteer time is finite so take the time to be sure it’s well spent. That knowledge allows you to allocate opportunities among organizations places where you can make the biggest difference.
For example, if you’re Captain of a team of mentors that works with 25 teens and they end up completing a 10K (yes, that’s a thank you to our TRW mentors!) – those numbers are powerful and worth knowing. Even more so, amazing to note what happens after the race as well.
3. Get Creative – Suggest, Design and Initiate - Don’t be afraid to suggest a volunteer path, role, or committee you believe makes a contribution to the organization’s mission. And ultimately, if you have a strong vision for a program that doesn’t exist yet, go for it! While organizations advertise set opportunities, get creative if you see a gap.
At the Cabrini Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, where I had my first development role, there was a great group of young people from the community that came to us with a suggestion. They ended up forming a Young Leadership Committee that became the driving force behind our Block Party which turned into an annual fundraising event. This wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t come to us with this bright suggestion.
4. Tell Them You’ll Think About It – (a.k.a. Don’t Overcommit - In 13 plus years of working in the charitable industry, I’ve decided that there’s an inverse relationship between the amount of time it takes someone to commit to volunteering, and the quality of their commitment. To make it a bit more literal, the more you’re promised in the first 10 minutes, the less will be delivered. Almost 100% of the time a volunteer candidate says they can’t wait to get started before seriously considering the opportunity, they’ve never shown up – even once. And the folks that offer to connect you with their rich uncle, their buddy the CEO – somehow, they evaporate like vapor the next time you try them by phone or email. Is it just me?
So, take the time to digest what you’ve heard and tell the volunteer recruiter that you want to seriously consider the role. Think about the opportunity, the time commitment and what’s expected. Talk it over with your significant other, your kids whoever. Then call two days later to tell them you’re in. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it much more than your enthusiastic yes seven minutes after the two of you have agreed that it wasn’t too hard to find the place and that the weather in fact, is getting nicer.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Move On - It’s a fact of life that people outgrow jobs, friendships, hobbies and yes, even volunteer roles and organizations. And trust me, once you’re volunteering and you DON’T want to be there anymore, you’re not helping anyone – not you, not the organization and certainly not clients.If you’re bored but like the organization, ask or suggest something new. If you need a wholesale switch, there’s nothing wrong with giving proper notice and seeking out new opportunities. Remember, like the Army says, this isn’t a job, it’s an adventure. Actually, it’s you contributing your time and energy. So do it somewhere where you’re going to feel great about it.
Coming soon, PART 2
I was recently reading my favorite passage from one of my favorite books, "Walking the Bible" by Bruce Feiler. First off, as much as I appreciate e-readers, there continues to be something about holding a well-worn cherished book that trumps the electronic experience. Archaic thinking I suppose but nevertheless, undeniable.
In any event, the passage - which I won't share in full detail - deals with discovering oneself in the desert. I don't mean just landing in the desert. I mean real self-discovery. I'm not sharing it intentionally as I hope you will add this to your reading list and find some or all of the joy I have.
But to summarize the passage which inspired me to run my first marathon (as one example), Feiler talks about breaking the comfort of safe environments ( i.e. not the desert), breaking through and ultimately longing for the challenge, adventure and rewards of new terrains and approaches.
By the way, similar lessons are out there in books by Ultra Runner Lisa Tamati; see "Running Hot" or "Running to Extremes". In both books, she chronicles her amazing ultra runs (100 miles and much more) through the Sahara, Gobi and other deserts. I guaranty you'll not only be inspired to run through a desert- you might revamp your business, how you spend your free time and maybe your way of life in general.
Are you sitting in a lovely air conditioned (or heated depend on where you and when you read this)? OR Are you about the to step into the desert with only the most amazing experience waiting for you?
Looking at this question through the lens of our work in the charitable sector and the impact we have, I would challenge you to consider:
1. Are you content with the impact your program is making? Or are you investing time and energy into thinking of the next iteration of the work that could hit the root of the issue beyond the symptoms.
2. Are you staffing your program with well meaning but minimally trained professionals? Or are you investing time and energy into teaching them about new methods, skills, ideas and thinking that empower them and inspire them to achieve more. And want to achieve more.
3. Are you engaging leadership that has been told its fine to contribute what they can or when they can? Or are you challenging your existing and new Board members to be the best (not necessarily the biggest) supporters) of the organization in terms of their contribution of time, energy and dollars (yes, I said it dollars!)
4. Are you asking your volunteers, fundraisers, donors and prospective donors to "give what they can" or "whatever is comfortable?" Or are you challenging your constituents to give the best gifts they can; best being a gift that stretches their capacity and one they can be proud of when asking others.
5. Are you comfortable that your donors really like, understand and value the work your organization does. Or are you taking the time to continually educate them and even the next generation (and the one after that) of the importance of your mission, how it has the potential to solve (not just treat) the issue and getting them excited about the possibilities?
If the answer to these was the first, it's an exciting time for you. You have the opportunity to grab your water bottle, get outside and start your run - Go Find Your Desert!! If you're already there, thanks for leading us…
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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