Rob Woods’ Review of Chapters 9 – 11 of Story-Telling Can Change The World Emotional Fundraising – The Essential Ingredient
Rob Woods (@woods_rob) is an author and fundraising trainer who has helped more than 5000 fundraisers, trustees and Directors through his award-winning courses and coaching. For more information, see www.brightsotfundraising.co.uk.
Thank goodness, a fundraising book that is both entertaining and practical. Too many are dry and overly theoretical, so Ken Burnett’s latest book is a welcome oasis in the desert.
Chapters 9 – 11 tackle the idea of emotion in story-telling from several different angles, including why emotion is so essential to fundraising; which bits of the brain are fundamental to the triggering of emotion; dozens of easily-made mistakes and how to avoid them, and much more.
The ideas are delivered in a variety of ways, including personal stories from Ken’s career and instructive examples from charity campaigns around the world, as well as snippets of advice and quotes which breathed new energy into things I thought I already knew, but which in truth I probably needed to be reminded about.
I especially liked this belter from Elmore Leonard:
‘Adjectives are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood out of words.’
The section about the workings of the brain included several ideas that were new to me, including which part of the brain alerts us to anything that STANDS OUT. Apparently it is the amygdala. Like the rest of this section – do you know what you your hippocampus does? – understanding just a little of how our brains work helped me to more urgently seek out certain ingredients in stories that will help the donor to connect to the truth I want to convey.
There are also plenty of broader thinking strategies which can help in a number of situations. I particularly liked the NLP technique of chunking up or down. To find how to do this in practice, I’d urge you to get the book. But to whet your appetite, Ken’s business partner Alan Clayton, himself no mean persuader, prizes this technique so highly that he calls it The Magic Super Power.
The book provides two compelling examples of the power in action: how it helped the London 2012 pitch team to cruise past the favourites, Paris, to win the vote to host the Olympics; and how the RSPB used it to transform their message from being a charity that appeals to people who like watching birds, to a charity for people who care about preserving the countryside and its wildlife for future generations.
I remember being baffled by the phoney, over-the-top gratitude that was expressed in many of the letters sent from one charity where I once worked. So I especially liked Ken’s reminder that though it’s important to thank properly, people don’t like insincerity, even if it seems flattering and grateful. He once received a letter which thanked him for his ‘tireless dedication…’ when he had shown no such thing.
There are also great examples of ways to ensure the donor (as well as the beneficiaries) are properly considered when making decisions – apparently Action Aid used to set up a spare place at board meetings to represent the perspective of the absent donor. There is also sensible encouragement to make use of your office environment as a source of inspiration. What could you put by your desk or on the walls or ceiling, to inspire you at both a conscious and subconscious level?
You’d think this should not be so hard. But don’t bet on it. I remember that even this assignment was messed up in one large children’s charity I know, where the communications department (average age 34) had created what they thought of as cool posters in the style of teenager’s urban art, but which looked no more authentic than William Hague in a baseball cap.
Here are five of my favourite bits of advice from these four chapters to anyone who seeks to do justice to the emotional power of their stories:
- It’s better to be real than clever
- It is all too easy to write in charity-speak, so beware this danger and fight it tooth and nail. One practical solution is to appoint a Tone Checker.
- People are interested in themselves. So the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ are more persuasive than ‘we’ and ‘our’.
- Write what you mean. There’s a feisty quote about this from Mark Twain about Jane Austen’s prose and a shin-bone that expressed a feeling I recognised immediately. (I can’t do it justice here, it’s in Chapter 11.)
- If it sounds like writing, re-write it.
On my training courses two of the most popular modules are How To Use Stories to Influence and Writing Persuasively. This book will certainly help anyone who wants to improve either of those skills. But it is also an entertaining read that will help you raise more money in all sorts of ways. I have added to my list of Must Reads for Fundraisers. If you work for a charity, I recommend you get ahead of the game and get yourself a copy.
On February 16, 2015 / 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
- What can fundraisers learn from the 16 most successful captains in history?
- 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