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Leicester’s amazing success – 3 ways you too can defy the odds

dreamstime_xs_48500020In winning the UK’s football Premiership for the first time in 132 years, Leicester City FC pulled off one of the greatest upsets in sporting history. They started as relegation-likely, 5000 to 1 outsiders, and made the ultimate come-back to see off their more famous and wealthy rivals and produce a fairy-tale ending.


Whether or not you are a football (or Leicester) fan, this story is instructive for anyone who is struggling against difficult odds. So what lessons can a determined fundraiser take from these giant-killers?


1. Embrace (and find) the advantage of being an under-dog. After a dreadful season last year, Leicester had been written off. And their manager Claudio Ranieri had been sacked four months into his previous job managing the Greek national team, after defeat to the Faroe Islands. And yet they found a team spirit, work ethic and strategy not just in spite of, but because of the adversity they faced.


If right now your job is hard because you work for a less attractive cause or don’t have the resources of your competitors, or if you have personally faced a setback or criticism, then take heart from Leicester’s example. If they can play David and comprehensively overcome their better resourced Goliaths, why shouldn’t you?


Actually, all fundraisers (and all charities) are under-dogs, because we are trying to change the status quo and to overcome enemies like apathy and cynicism. You can either succumb to what is so hard about your job right now, or understand that, as Malcolm Gladwell notes, when they triumph, there is always a pattern to the way in which underdogs defy the odds. If you have no interest in sport, look elsewhere. Every field has underdogs who regularly defy the odds, by a) genuinely believing they can turn things around and b) being willing to do things that their comfortable Goliath opponents don’t do.


2.  Focus is power. One thing in Leicester’s favour was that unlike most of their rivals, they were not distracted by goals other than winning the Premiership. This will be harder for them next season as they play in the Champion’s League, but for much of this season they were able to focus all their energies on just one important goal.


I still remember when Lois Wolffe of the National Library of Scotland, fed back to the rest of the group on the Major Gifts Mastery Programme that in the last month she had secured face to face meetings with 56 wealthy donors and potential donors! Yes, you read that number correctly. Her achievement was testament to a number of skills, but the most important was the ability to say no to less important objectives and just focus on ‘booking test drives’. Several goals are important for determined major donor fundraisers, but none is more important than getting in front of your donors.


3.  Take one game at a time. Leicester were ahead for most of the season and for many unfancied contenders this causes ‘the choke’. Though the expectation was huge for months, they somehow managed to not get ahead of themselves, just do their job every day as well as they could.


One of the most common errors I have found in fundraisers is the tendency to spend too much time focusing on their long-term hopes with trusts / donors / companies.


The legendary basketball coach John Wooden produced such extraordinarily successful teams because he helped his players view success in terms of how much effort you put in today (both in training or on a game day), rather than the score on the board.


A great question to ask is ‘how could I help this donor have a fantastic and rewarding event / conversation with me today?’ If you get better and better at answering this question, then more and more donors will agree to one more event / project visit / cup of coffee. And if you do this, then like for Leicester, these consistent small results will compound. Sooner or later some donors will trust you so much as to make very valuable gifts to your charity.


Would you like to increase Major Donor income in 2016? The early bird discount (saving £500) for the Major Gifts Mastery Programme is available now.



On May 16, 2016 / Uncategorized

Client Testimonials 
‘What I love about the Major Gifts Mastery Programme is it’s so practical. I’ve seen loads of monetary value come from what we learned, including a gift of £200,000 from a trust that came about because of the learnings in the course. If you want to raise more money, I’d urge you to do the Programme.’

Paul McKenzie, Head of Major Giving and Corporate Partnerships, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

Rob's outstanding pitch training helped me secure a partnership worth £380,000 over three years. One of the crucial things he helped me do was to better understand the psychology of who I needed to convince, and use this to craft my influencing strategies, structure and stories to help them say YES. If you need to win more partnerships, I would absolutely recommend you get on Rob's training.

Karen Arkell, Senior Officer, Corporate Partnerships, Teach First

'We recently had a pitch we just had to win. I'm absolutely clear that what we learned from Rob helped us get the deal, which is a partnership that's going to raise £1 million. Rob is better at helping you influence your donor to get the gift than anyone I've met.

Ben Swart, Head of Corporate New Business, NSPCC

Rob's exceptional training has taken our programme to the next level. One example was a colleague re-connecting with a lapsed donor on the phone, resulting in a £100k+ gift; his first in four years. I would absolutely recommend Rob's training programme as an invaluable investment for any fundraising team.

Victoria Stephenson, Head of Major Donors, UNICEF UK

Following the course, Major Gift Fundraisers at the NSPCC increased gift income by 29%

Citation by UK Skills National Training Award

We're currently involved in our largest ever Campaign, with a target of £500 million, so we've invested in the best training available. Rob's courses have been an essential part of our annual King's Knowledge learning programme for the last five years, because he continues to help us get outstanding results.

Gemma Peters, Director of Development, King's College London

I’ve found the Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme hugely helpful already. It’s helped me in so many ways, but as an example, I applied one of Rob’s pitching techniques and it completely wowed the panel, and has resulted in a partnership worth over £100,000.

Kieran Cornwall, Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager, Cystic Fibrosis Trust

I was on the pitch team to win a partnership worth £1,000,000. I was determined to pitch to the best of my ability. Rob helped me present with confidence, persuasiveness and enthusiasm, enabling me to connect with the pitch panel – and we won the partnership.

Kirsty Lawson, Corporate Account Team Manager, (Head of) at Alzheimer’s Society

Rob showed my corporate fundraising team lots of excellent new business strategies. The techniques made a made a MASSIVE difference to our financial results, including helping to win a partnership worth £2 million

Jess Coombs, Head of Corporate Fundraising, Teenage Cancer Trust and formerly at Action for Children