Bright Spot Fundraising

Tried and tested fundraising techniques
that help you raise more money.

Meeting an important supporter? – do this and get the edge

A couple of months ago I was coaching a community fundraiser who was struggling to hit her targets.


Following the session she went and took more action than she had in months. As I tell you the simple idea that led to the change I’d like you to try an experiment.


Whether you are standing or sitting, deliberately adopt a more powerful, open pose. Un-hunch your shoulders, raise your chest-bone so you are more open, and un-cross any limbs that are crossed. Be BIG not small. If you were looking serious or neutral, allow yourself a half smile. Obviously this sounds a bit silly, but hardly anyone’s watching and you have nothing to lose.


At the start of the session, my client who I’ll here call Caroline, seemed pretty far from confident. I first asked her what was going well for her. After a little prompting, told me about a new supporter she had called who had happily agreed to do a sponsored event which would be worth £500. It was such a great story that I really wanted to know how she’d done it. Going into the detail, Caroline’s body language changed completely. She was leaning back, doing big open gestures, and most noticeably, she was grinning broadly.


Once we got into the areas that needed work, she chose networking skills, which took 45 minutes and making phone calls.


We had 15 minutes to tackle a three hour topic and I wondered what one idea would make the biggest difference to her phone results. I asked her to score out of ten her feelings when she made fundraising calls. ‘Minus 3’ she said with feeling.


I said, ‘Caroline…when you were talking to the guy about the £500 sponsored event place…could you show me what you were doing with your body at that moment’. She looked baffled, and then quite easily re-created the big, open body position and even the grin. Her energy had clearly changed. I asked, ‘And now what number from 1 to 10 would you mark your feelings as?… Are you at 5, or 6 or 7?


‘I’m an 8 now. Yeah, at least an 8 at the moment…I feel great now’.


‘Caroline’ I said, ‘do that whenever you make phone calls.’


She looked back at me.


‘Are you seriously telling me that everything will get easier if I just sit up straight and smile on the phone?’


‘That’s right’. She deliberately sat way more confidently for the rest of the session, and even though she was doing it ‘on purpose’ the thing that struck me was that she started smiling warmly – her real smile – and her voice was now less hesitant.


At the start of my courses fundraisers often arrive believing that what’s holding back their results is the lack of some clever strategy or skill. Certainly there are that you need to know…but often the biggest shifts in results are made by doing surprisingly simple, even obvious things, really well, and DOING THEM EVERY TIME.


Caroline felt far more confident in a heartbeat, because she deliberately changed her physiology. If you’re sceptical about the power of this simple idea, take a look at the science behind the shift. As Professor Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business School demonstrates in this inspiring TED talk –, adopting power poses, even only briefly, affects the hormones that your body releases. Specifically, testosterone, (the ‘dominance hormone’ which affects assertiveness and among other things, willingness to take risks) goes up and the level of cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’, which makes you feel worry) goes down.


As Cuddy points out, most of us are dimly aware that our body language affects how others perceive us. This is worth remembering next time you go to meet a powerful donor (or your Finance Director?) and don’t want to get pushed around. It’s one thing to be aware of it and another to improve your skill at controlling how others perceive you. For more on this, a great read is Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff.


But her main, often over-looked, point, is that your body language affects how YOU feel. When presented with this idea, some people say they don’t want to be fake by acting confidence they don’t feel. Professor Cuddy points out that by doing the comfortable-seeming or small body poses, you are actually being inauthentic.


Doing these poses in the presence of powerful donors makes it difficult for you to express what you really think and feel with conviction. But if you fake it till you become it, ie deliberately practice making yourself big (in private) just before your crunch donor meeting, you are activating hormones so that you’ll feel the confidence to think, act and speak at your most authentic best during the meeting.


If you did the posture experiment while reading, how would you rate your feelings of confidence right now?


If you’d like to improve your results with important donors, there are three more little known techniques that I will explain in depth, on The Secrets of Successful Fundraising on 12th September 2013 in London.

On April 7, 2014 / Fundraising Skills

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‘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%

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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