In any organisation that relies on proactively seeking sources of funding its common to engage someone in the role as a fundraiser. Whether the title is fundraising or development, or giving manager or similar the focus is the same: the bottom line.
Its all about attracting money to fund operations or some other aspect of the organisation.
The role itself might be funded by a grant has to fund itself through donations or some form of fundraising and under a short term contract.
This in itself puts pressure on the person to succeed, and whilst common, is not an ideal model as the person may be very successful in many areas of their job but may fall short of fundraising targets at no fault of their own.
The rules may change for a grants program, or funding withdrawn by the government due to a change of policy. Or perhaps they get sick, or a promised donation falls through due to no fault of their own.
Another factor that goes against meeting targets is that cultivating donations, especially recurring or significant donations is that it takes time. Time to find the right contacts, make the connection, educate + inspire the prospect, build trust and rapport and then convert that into a donation.
If the contract for the fundraiser is for six months or a year, then in many cases the conversion of a prospect, particularly in the case of a high net worth individual.
So they can do everything right and still not land their targets.
There are many factors that can influence success or failure for a fundraiser that are outside of their control, and its no wonder that there is often high burnout rate for people in those roles due to the uncertainty and stress involved.
Another factor that can impact success in fundraising is lack of support by the rest of the team. At times the attitude can be: that’s their job, not ours, we’re the admin/ creative / finance team et alia.
So often the result is the person is out there on their own, doing their best, but they really need the support of the entire organisation in some form.
This is essential not just as a risk mitigation strategy, but can also be a catalyst to get the energy of the team to help drive fundraising activities in an coordinated way.
So at all levels of the organisation there is a role they can play from Board level, to management, to rank and file staff. Itis important they have a shared understanding of the fundraising activity or specific campaign and given the tools and rationale to help it along by the fundraising manager.
They can have a role in lots of ways that don’t necessary take them away from their own responsibilities, but it give a multiplier effect to the activity. Some of the activities can include:
- Contribute to the development of the fundraising strategy and offer to assist in its execution
- Being available to test messages and tactics before the launch
- Raising awareness of the campaign through their own networks including social media
- Leading by example by promotion of the opportunity to give, giving themselves or reaching out to people that can donate, the old ‘get, give or get-off’ mantra!
- Turning up and showing solidarity especially at fundraising events
- Create introductions or open doors for the specialist fundraiser to start the conversation or follow-up with their peers once an initiate contact has been made to help convert the prospect, especially at the senior level
- Ensuring their doing their bit to ensure the organisation is as attractive as possible to a potential donor
- Amplifying the key messages that have been developed about what the organisation is looking to achieve with the funds raised, and the results of what’s been done with donations to date.
- Help celebrate the wins and reflecting back constructively how fundraising initiatives can be improved for next time.
No one person can be solely responsible for fundraising for an organisation, everyone has a role to play in some way and can contribute materially to its success. There needs to be a go-to person who can design the strategy, create the opportunities, cultivate the leads design the activities and be the point of contact.
But by leveraging the whole team, then it not only multiplies the potential of the fundraising activity, but shows potential donors that the organisation as a whole has a team spirit, is invested in its future and is a good investment of their support.
Most of us don’t want to be challenged or provoked on a daily basis. We just want to do a good job, work reasonable hours in a positive workplace, go home, get paid.
Strong and effective teams are often those who share the same vision professionally, been forged through common experience, and feel they have each other’s back.
But the reverse of that strength are teams that reinforce complacency, or accept less of each other’s professional standards because it gives them permission to ease off too.
They’re comfortable, and assume the default position of ‘good enough’.
Sometimes that’s the result of no leadership, or having a leader whose become their friend, and cannot exert any challenge else risk the good vibes they enjoy. Perhaps they’ve been together for years, and without realising it they’ve created a space that reinforces mediocrity.
With poor motivation, members of the team in turn feel they’re only going to expend the minimum effort, because that is all they feel the job (or their pay) is worth, or how they’re valued.
Then there is also ‘this is the way its always been done’ culture. It speaks of inertia and a team that is no longer challenged to be better, or wants to learn from its experience.
Another feature of this way-too-comfortable culture is a lack of accountability and candidness with each other. There isn’t the feeding information up the governance ladder. They’ve stopped caring, or feel that their superiors are disengaged with the reality of the workplace, so they tune out.
One of the common cures for these scenarios is the appointment of a new leader to be the ‘new broom’. They’re appointed to rev up the team, set new standards and hold the team accountable.
More often as a result there is an attrition of team members who move on, and new people brought in and that can make a positive difference. A healthy purging.
Alternately, consultants are brought in when there is a manager or leader in place to provide a fresh perspective, but not every organisation can afford that luxury.
A third way is having a team member who has the perspective of an outsider. They might be a contractor or consultant to do a particular job, but rather than get cosy in the workplace culture, they are there to speak truth to power and reflect back constructively on workplace performance areas that should be challenged.
The role needs to be overt and their place understood in the organisation, so that any feedback, usually critical, isn’t seen as a negative or destructive tone for the sake of it. It is their job to retain to a perspective and help hold the organisation accountable to its own values and goals.
This may be mean some distance in workplace relations to help retain objectivity, but they are not there to be a spy or white ant team performance.
Their role is to have the best interests of the organisation at heart and help identify blockers that stop it realising its potential. They can also be a catalyst for change by challenging the team to higher performance, including the leadership team.
Over time as successes are achieved and recognised, the culture of self-reflection as a team may be embedded and the appointment may become redundant, its mission accomplished as the team becomes accountable to each other.
Alternately, someone in the team adopts the role for each project in turn and can offer ‘black hat’ perspectives in a constructive way.
But whatever means are used, all teams + workplaces can gain by having a perspective that challenges them to better performance + standards.
“I know what networking is”, I hear you say, but do you know how to use to use it in a systematic way that will drive your business forward in a competitive market?
When I use the term ‘networking’, I include all engagement with clients, prospective clients and the general market place, whether in the real world, or online. It’s an ongoing process, not an event, and too often that process is ad hoc and the opportunities and contacts made are left to chance.
For most professionals, networking generally falls into one of three categories:’
- Something you do already and don’t need to think much about, and you reckon you pretty much have it covered (sure about that?)
- A function of someone else in your organisation (such as your sales/marketing team or BDM) does (whilst you get on the with the real work)
- Its on your To-Do list if you had the time to spare (you’re busy now, but what will happen in 3 months’ time …how’s your pipeline looking?)
What’s common to all these attitudes is the hit and miss approach to what can be the most powerful way to drive revenue and corporate reputation. Most all companies have a communications/marketing strategy, an online presence (including social media), a business plan, training schedules and a contacts database. But where is the networking strategy to pull all that together into a coherent whole?
Consider all the time, effort and money invested in all the events and associations your company takes part in: are they supporting your corporate goals? What’s the return on that investment? Take a moment to reflect on why online networking sites are so popular.
LinkedIn passed the 4 million user mark in Australia, and Facebook is the size of a large country in terms of population. It is clear that people want to connect, and connect meaningfully.
We’re all busy people, but in my opinion real change, trust and rapport only happen in the real world.
People, after all, still want to do transactions with entities they like and trust, and that entity could be an individual or a brand. So, whilst an online networking presence is both efficient you still want to aim for real world outcomes.
To ensure your team are engaging externally effectively, and that you are leveraging all your company’s tools, a networking strategy should look at the following:
- What you are trying to achieve through your networking. Is it for market intelligence? Perhaps to create a new market, or improve the understanding of your services, or perhaps to put a face to your company name in the market place.
- How those goals align with your company/marketing/business development goals.
- What resources of time, staff and money you are willing to invest? In many instances your current contacts may be able to help you, but you have never looked at them in the light of a future champion for your company or client.
- What are your performance measures? Define metrics on a 3, 6 and 12 month timeline.
- Aim for a systematic process, both online and offline that are mutually supporting.
- Ensuring all your team are skilled up appropriately with an internal means to share contacts, market intelligence and communications.
- Identifying those events, groups and forums that are most likely to attract your target contacts.
Finally, you should divide your activities into three broad categories:
- Maintaining your current clients
- Cultivating new clients
- Expanding the market for all, or part, of your organisations offering
All of the above is not rocket science, but you need to be systematic in order to identify and exploit the opportunities that come your way as a result. Don’t leave the results of your efforts to chance.
A networking strategy will go a long way in ensuring that your team and online tools are not only creating new contacts, raising your company profile, gathering market intelligence and in turn improving the bottom line.
I’ve a confession to make, I’m an introvert. a major one.
I’m usually exhausted after a function, inspired, full of opportunities, happy at the connections made, but worn out by the interaction with others.
But if I hadn’t tuned up, none of the opportunities and information picked up at the event would have come my way.
So, how does an introvert cope with a room full of strangers and networking in general?
Networking isn’t what you think it is.
The most common perception of networking is of turning up to a venue, putting on a name tag, and handing out business cards to complete strangers whilst sipping on wine of a dubious ancestry.
Many people who network do so unwillingly – it being part of their job description and they feel the pressure of collecting business cards and getting the word out about their organisation to as many people as possible. This pressure and stress can make it even harder for good contacts to be made and to communicate effectively.
But is doesn’t have to be that way. By changing the way we see networking we can approach the process with confidence. In fact, many of us network very well all the time without realising it.
We’re all great Networkers!
Every time we recommend a good place for coffee, or recommend a plumber, or someone to wash the dog is a form of networking.
We share information, ask advice, make time for each other, send interesting articles via email or clips from YouTube to stay in touch with friends and colleagues.
All this activity and maintains your relationship, keeps you in synch and a great way to keep the momentum up. The process should be the same for your professional relationships.
The sharing of information, the giving of favours and making time for others is the essence of great networking.
Give, Give, Give, Give, Get
In my workshops, I stress that networking is a way of seeing the world full of opportunity. It may sound paradoxical in the commercial world, but the more you give out the more you get in return, eventually. All things being equal, people want to do business with people they like and they trust.
To earn that relationship takes time, personal attention and cultivation- just like any good relationship. So the more you help your professional colleagues out, the more positive they see you, the more relevant you become and your professional profile rises above your peers and competitors.
But more importantly, over time those professional relationships you’ve cultivated will in turn recommend you to others (the best form of marketing there is) and when the time is right you’ll get the work , the lead, the information you were seeking.
So stay focused on the main game- the quality and depth of your relationships and not the number of business cards in your collection.
Posture and Attitude
When you’re meeting people its worth remembering a few things:
- They can’t hear the dialogue in your head saying ‘get me out of here, I’ve nothing interesting to say’
- People generally assume the best of someone and will accept you at face value as you present yourself
- You’re representing your organisation or company, that gives you a role to play, just like an actor
- They’ve chosen to be there too in order to meet other people, so its quite ok to talk to complete strangers
- You’re not going to get a sale/lead most likely right there and then, so just be yourself and let the conversation flow.
Finally, introverts have a lot going in inside their head… best to get it out and onto your computer or into a colleagues head. After the event, debrief yourself and make the information useful for the future:
- Who did you meet?
- What’s memorable about them? (hobbies, family etc)
- Worth following up? (book the when and how)
- What are the next steps to move things forward.
So, remember, we’re all in the same boat, you’re most likely much better at networking than you give yourself credit for, and by having a role and a system behind you, you’ll sail through the events like a pro.
I’m sure you’ve read all the tips on the things you should be doing when networking. In theory they are all straightforward enough. But we’re only human and forget some key steps that can make the difference between wasting your time and getting a result.
The following are some of the common things I see at the hundreds of networking experiences I have each year.
1. No Plan
Serendipity is nice, I like it too, its often where the good stuff is.
But if you don’t have a reason for your networking you won’t know which groups to join, what events to attend, what to talk about, who to follow-up and what success looks like.
Get yourself a basic 3 month plan about the who/where/what and a reason or 2 to network and be systematic and consistent about the process. Then see how your travelling against your goals and refine, mix and pour.
2. Pitching Too Soon
Do you want to be sold to the first time you meet someone? Probably not.
There is a time and place for pitching your idea or spiel, and if the event is set up purposely for that, then fine, go for it, as long as everyone else is.
But most of the time you’ll be a mixer, or lunch or seminar and its small talk time. These are opportunities to just meet, get some some basic facts about you and your expertise established and move on to start cultivating the relationship.
At the end of the day, most people will choose someone they like and trust to do business with, that takes time, so work on that, pitch downstream.
3. Wrong People, Wrong Group
Sometimes you don’t have a lot of choice in your networking options, but consider three things:
- What’s the level of the person: (graduates or executives?) you need to mixing with your peers usually, especially when building up your brand and contacts.
- Culture fit: people are tribal and there are professional cultures too that can help or hinder your ability to connect and cultivate the relationship
- Market: are they the right market for what you’re looking to introduce or what to achieve more generally?
Another letdown by managers is not prepping their younger team members appropriately and they’ll outmatched by the level of executive or manager in the room and don’t represent your company the way you’d like them to, no fault of theirs.
4 . No Maintenance
This is so common its not funny. Why invest in memberships, time and effort attending events if you don’t stay in touch with the people you meet. And I don’t mean just connecting them on LinkedIn afterwards.
Coffee anyone? Time is the biggest compliment you can pay someone these days.
Meeting people is just the starting point. You may not know their potential right away, and besides even if they’re not ‘relevant’ to you now, they may be when they change jobs in 6 months or indeed, who they know. Be nice to them and they just be nice back.
5. No Teamwork
My pet peeve. Seeing several people from the same organisation turn up at an event, stick together, sit on the same table, talk to the same people. Do the math. Try splitting up and multiply the number of people you can meet.
The other let down is after the event when you get back to the office. Do you debrief, share notes of who you met and who’s going to stay in the touch with them.
So why go?
Well, as a delegate, if you’ve chosen the event well, you’ll not only learn something but meet a range of useful contacts you normally wouldn’t.
In reality, its the people you meet there that is the good stuff at a conference, the topics are often just an excuse to gather.
But that’s just the starting point, without a considered plan to leverage your investment, you’re really missing out.
Remember that the delegates are keen to others too whilst they’re there and you’ve a bunch to talk about such as the speakers, ideas raised, what brought them there at alia.
1. Right People, Right Place
Presuming you know why your attending the event, there are some things you need to consider:
- The rank or level of the delegates likely to be attending
- The program design and the likely opportunity to network informally
- Who is representing your organisation,, they need to be able to relate to the delegates
- The organisations likely to be present so you can prepare accordingly.
2. Skipping Class
Don’t feel obliged to attend every session. If there is a space such as a delegate coffee or recharging lounge then hangout there and strike up a conversation.
If there is an exhibition area, they are often neglected during sessions, so its the best time to say hello and get acquainted with them, they may be a good contact to make.
Make sure you attend all the social events, and if you’ve colleagues, split up and seat on different tables to meet as many people as possible.
3. Come Prepared
If you know who’s coming, or likely to attend, and why you’re going (i.e. your objectives are defined) then you can then do some of the following:
- Prepare your talking points, and narratives about yourself, organisation, expertise that will be relevant to the people you’re likely to meet
- Plan your wardrobe and stock up on your business cards
- Do some research on the delegates and speakers you know is attending
- If attending with colleagues, split up across sessions, key contacts, tables and activities so you maximise the number of people you’ll meet
- If there are key stakeholders attending, then consider the opportunity to meet with them one on one, and decide beforehand on any outcomes you want to gain from the engagement.
4. Broadcasting via Social Media
It’s more common now for conferences to have their own social media presence, such as a facebook page or twitter account + hashtag, so make sure you tune into that and contribute to the conversation before, during and after the event.
A few tweets during the event can be a good way to show your own followers that you’re out and about and share some of the key take homes with them.
Like, follow or subscriber to the speakers, participating organisations and exhibitors whilst your there to take the engagement to another level and raise your own profile in the process.
Post event you can share some insights with your own audience through a blog, LinkedIn update or slideshare pack, its a great way to stay top of mind and add value at the same time.
5. Debrief the Team
Whilst you may want to catch up with the day to day when you get back, take the time to debrief with your colleagues who you met, what your learnt, what opportunities there are to follow-up and plan some next steps.
Don’t leave your insights, learning and experiences in your head!
There will be homework to do post event, and you may need to allocate roles in the team to follow-up key people, apply the knowledge you’ve gained and make the most of the opportunities.
6. LinkedIn and Following-up
As I said at the start, the event is just the starting point, so now you’ve got all those business cards, what now?
This is where LinkedIn is your friend, reach out to them within a week of the event with a personalised note and ask to be connected with them- EVERYONE YOU MET.
It will provide a simple way to stay in touch with them and vice versa.
For possible high value contacts or stakeholders then an additional email or follow-up will be required in a systematic way.