Saturday, February 21, 2009

Become your organization's competitive edge

I'm very touched by the number of people reading this blog and I'm sorry it has fallen a little behind. I have been writing and reading and thinking a lot lately. I could post a giant development plan full of mind numbing theory and action items that would overwhelm directors of even the largest fundraising shop - but I think this book review might be more useful to you.

I own a lot of fundraising books and have read them all. Some more than once. I've come to the conclusion that there really are only two books that fundraisers need to own. Relationship Fundraising by Ken Burnett and this new one The Influential Fundraiser by Bernard Ross and Clare Segal.

(Note to the authors: the size of the image does not indicate favouritism. Its just the best a luddite like me could do!)

I recently wrote a book review for SOFII on the latter. (If you are one of the few fundraisers in the world who isn't registered for SOFII do it now!)

Here is my review of the Influential Fundraiser from SOFII:

When I heard about the idea of using psychology to raise more money I couldn’t imagine how that would fit into my previous learning about the pyramids, loops and ladders that are so familiar to many of us fundraisers. The fact is – it doesn’t. Bernard Ross and Clare Segal are revolutionising fundraising with their new book The Influential Fundraiser. Forget what you know or thought you knew about this business. You won’t find any gift charts or moves management tables – no scripted asks either. Ross and Segal have outlined in detail the steps required not only to raise more money, but to also win over your board or staff. This book will even help to get your teenagers to clean their rooms!

The practical advice laid out in this book will help you to:

-Understand what motivates your donors.
- Immediately establish and build rapport.
- Present your proposal in a way that is tailored to the psychology of the person you are trying to influence.
- Take systematic steps to make sure you are prepared and know the desired outcome
- Understand and respond appropriately to your donors point of view
- Know which of the nine ‘nos’ actually means no. (Hint: there is only one.)

With so much information, you expect the book to read like a textbook. That’s not the case. It is so well written that the words fall off the page. (I actually read it from the beginning to the end in one sitting.) Wonderful examples of their ideas in action are interwoven throughout to help you to see how the exercises can be applied in the real world. For example, the story of a priest from Bolivia who used the metaphor of an actual brick to make his case and explain his vision. While raising money to help children learn to read, the priest tells the story of a young boy who tossed aside an encyclopaedia because he couldn’t read and a book wouldn’t help him build a house. Of course a full proposal is used eventually, ‘But,’ says Father Luis, ‘donors really get it when I show them the brick!’

The authors outline how the five cogs of passion, proposal, preparation, persuasion and persistence work together and explain how this has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for clients of the Management Centre around the world. Now Ross and Segal are sharing their secrets of success so that more fundraisers and causes will benefit.

I do have one concern about this fundraising approach. I would have liked to see more about maintaining our integrity as fundraisers while using this powerful psychology to ask for gifts. The book quickly points out this dilemma at the beginning, stating that, ‘If you feel like you are manipulating someone, then you probably are. So stop whatever you are doing.’ At a time when we need to be even more accountable and even more ethical, I’d like to better understand that grey area between being an extraordinary fundraiser and being a mediocre sales person or, worse, a con artist. These skills of persuasion will need to be used very carefully.

Fortunately there is also website for just such a discussion. The website also include extra downloads to help you apply the techniques. I think we need to talk more about the ethics involved in fundraising using the psychology of persuasion.

In the meantime, inspired by the lessons from this book, I wish I could rewind and replay every one of the solicitations and board meetings I participated in last year. I will no doubt keep this book very close. While the concepts are quite simple to set out they won’t be all that easy to learn and apply. It will take time and practice for me to become the influential fundraiser I need to be in order to have that ‘competitive edge’. Come to think about it… forget what you just read, don’t buy the book, don’t listen to me and don’t visit the website… the less people who read it, the better. After all, we can’t all be highly influential and successful fundraisers! But if you need to buy the book to help you get your children to clean their rooms, that would be just fine.

The Influential Fundraiser
Using the psychology of persuasion to achieve outstanding results.
by Bernard Ross and Clare Segal
ISBN 978-0-7879-9404-4
© Kimberley MacKenzie 2009

To be fair I have reread and written a little something about Relationship Fundraising too- so watch for it. Is there another book that you think is an absolute must for every fundraiser? Tell us about it. Thank you for spending time here.

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