The crucial advice from a sports coach that helped me raise more money
In the summer of 2006 I played softball for my charity’s team in the London Charity Softball League. (If you’ve never seen a softball game, imagine the close cousin of baseball and rounders – hitting a ball to help your team score runs.) The second year I played, I asked someone who knew how to play to give us a quick coaching session, showing us how to bat, field etc,
While trying to master the skill of batting I told this coach, Mark, how hard I found it to stay relaxed and calmly hit the ball during the pressure of a game situation.
He said that obviously an element of batting is physical, but the larger part is mental. If you’re not careful, you risk focussing on one of two unhelpful things: a) what your ego DESIRES, ie to hit a home run / get the glory or b) what you most FEAR ie missing it completely / letting your team down etc. If you allow either of these two to be your focus when you step up to bat, you’ll probably miss.
Instead he told us to focus on ‘getting the bat on the ball and the ball in play.’
Can you see how this new focus / goal is a) more attainable than aiming for a home run each time and b) more confidence-inducing than trying to ‘not mess up’?
The result of this shift in focus…
I know this advice sounds obvious, but left to its own devices, the human brain often does not do what is obvious. And deliberately applying the advice made a huge difference to our ability to get lots of our runners on to bases and then keep nudging them round to score lots and lots of points. In fact, consistently applying this different strategy is one reason my team went on to win the League that year!
How this idea helps you raise more money
In her fascinating interview for the Bright Spot Members Club this month, executive coach Lara Roche explained how a great way to improve your confidence and results is to better understand your own Locus of Control.
Put simply, Rotter’s Locus of Control model suggests that the highest performers do so well in large part because they understand the difference between things they can control and things they can merely influence. We struggle in life if we allow our mental energy to be drawn to things which we have little control over.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
In fundraising, it’s all too easy to inadvertently focus on the equivalent of the home run that your ego or your manager seem to be asking you to achieve. Especially if things aren’t going brilliantly and your team is under any pressure, we can focus our energy and desire on ‘getting the big gift’ / ‘winning a valuable corporate partnership’ / ‘getting the rotary club / school / church’ to support us. But if you ask yourself on a wet Monday morning how to get these very Big Wins Quickly, it becomes harder to get the smaller daily ideas and put in the consistent effort to build the relationships that over time do lead to the ‘Home Runs’ that you ultimately want.
So instead, the wise, productive thing to do is to focus on the equivalent of what my softball coach taught us. In many types of fundraising, an important answer to this question is ‘have more face to face conversations with the right kind of donor’.
I appreciate that, crucially, this better focus still feels difficult to most fundraisers, and they would say they are already ‘doing their best’ in this area. But in practice, the people who dramatically increase their high value fundraising results through the Major Donor Mastery Programme, (for example you can read here about Caroline Crowther generated her largest ever gift) do so in part by deliberately applying tactics which boost their results in this area. At the very least most people on this programme double the number of meetings they achieve with their supporters.
Just like in softball, when you focus on solving the right problems, even difficult challenges like persuading more donors to meet you become absolutely solvable. For instance, one tactic is to do what one fabulous fundraiser, Sarah Adwick did, and deliberately organise your event in a more strategic way, where everything you do is designed to help your attendees want to meet you for a follow up cup of coffee.
Another, as Dan helped his community team at British Heart Foundation to do, is to encourage and playfully reward problem-solving in the result-critical area. Within one month this increased the average number of meetings in the month to a magnificent 12 per person, and achieved a host of great results, including 4 new charity of the year partnerships in that first month alone. You can read how they achieved such fabulous success in their Cuppa and Conversation Bingo project here.
When you are focussing in the right areas, you discover there are dozens of ways you can improve results. But the starting point is to deliberately identify and target those areas. Otherwise, in spite of all your hard work, there’s a strong chance you will swing and miss.
Curious about the Major Donors Mastery Programme or Corporate Mastery Programme?
For more information about our Mastery Programmes, or to apply for a free half hour coaching session, follow this link.
Do you (or a friend) play softball?
If you know someone who is playing softball in this year’s Harris Hill Charity Softball League, I have this year helped to create the Softball Coaching Series, a set of free, short coaching films, with a new outstanding coach called Luke, to help improve key skills like batting, catching with a glove etc. You can follow this link to access the films, or forward it to a friend.
On June 20, 2018 / Fundraising Skills
‘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