Resilient language – the second key to increased fundraising grit
‘No, I’m telling you I’ve looked everywhere…the whole train is packed. I’m telling you, soon as winter comes, everything turns to shit…’
I could not help but overhear the woman’s forlorn conversation into her mobile as I got off my train in Stafford last October.
It’s true that the train was busy and quite a few people had just got on the train I had left. It was also interesting to note that as I walked to the end of the platform, there was still some space in the last couple of carriages which the commuter had not seen.
So, assuming she genuinely did want to get to work that morning, why didn’t she walk further along the platform?
Why is it that sometimes we keep trying and other times we give up? And what can anyone who works for a charity do to improve their ability to keep going?
Professor Angela Duckworth has spent more time carrying out research to better understand the nature of resilience than any other psychologist. She has not only found some keys to increasing your resilience, she has also shown how extraordinarily important the ability to persevere is to any sustained success.
When she studied officer cadets at the elite military academy at Westpoint, she found that more than measures of intelligence, leadership potential, fitness etc, the most powerful predictor of later success was their resilience. And in interviewing dozens of high achieving fundraisers over the last decade, I have found that the one characteristic they all share is the ability to keep going.
Beware language which is permanent and pervasive
Everyone experiences setbacks. One often overlooked element, suggests Duckworth, is the words you habitually use to describe these setbacks.
I believe that saying ‘as soon as winter comes, everything turns to shit’ reduced the unhappy commuter’s ability to look for, or even notice the space on the train.
Duckworth’s book Grit shows that you will be less resilient if you frequently use words which are permanent (‘everything’, ‘why does this always happen?’, ‘they never help’) and pervasive (if you tell your subconscious that everything is literally human waste, it makes sense not to plough on through it down the platform).
Here are two of the most common, seemingly harmless verbal habits used to describe things that go wrong: ‘a disaster’, ‘a total nightmare’.
Do you ever hear yourself saying these, or something similar? If you use these words again and again, do you think they could make it harder for you to persist and find solutions?
Choose words which are temporary and specific
Prof Duckworth suggests you will experience more resilience, and all the benefits that come with this, if you find a way to choose words which are temporary (‘it’s annoying that its happened this time (ie you imply it doesn’t mean it will happen tomorrow), and specific, less emotional (‘this is ‘irritating’ or even ‘inconvenient’ rather than ‘infuriating’).
Four steps to resilient language patterns
Step 1. Become aware You may not believe that as soon as winter comes, everything ‘turns to shit’, but most of us have certain favourite words we use when stressed. What are yours? When there is a problem with your computer, a conversation with a donor or a difficult colleague, what are your habitual ways of describing the situation?
Step 2. Choose an empowering alternative. What could you say instead which is more specific and accurate? Of course these initially can seem strange or a bit silly, but if you can see the funny side in this, they can help ‘break the pattern’ of your negative reaction.
Part of the reason we can be reluctant to let go of the knee-jerk, dramatic phrases is that they can feel satisfying – the buzz of anger, or a good moan can be seductive, not least because the more we do it the more certain we become that we’re blameless and others have messed up – but the price for this feeling is you feel dis-empowered.
Step 3. Work out your most common triggers. When is this most likely to happen? Decide in advance to break the pattern, even if only by laughing at how ridiculous you feel to call something ‘inconvenient’ rather than something more colourful. Rehearse in advance what you will say instead of the resilience-sapping phrase.
Step. 4. Notice and feel pleased! Notice what happens when you manage to follow through. Was it worth the effort? This is much more likely to happen if you keep a notebook to record your progress in this and other fundraising goals. Noticing that your energy stays more positive will help you persist with the new phrase until it becomes a habit.
On April 24, 2017 / Uncategorized
‘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
- Ignition – how to get more of this crucial ingredient for progress
- How to help supporter groups maximise their potential
- Miracle?! How Southgate prepared England for penalty victory and how it can help you raise more money
- The crucial advice from a sports coach that helped me raise more money