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The secret to feeling more confident with Big Ego Supporters

fundOne of the most common questions I am asked is ‘how can I feel less nervous when meeting or asking for gifts from people who are older, wealthier and more powerful than myself?’.

In my new book, The Fundraiser Who Wanted More, this is one of the questions that Claire asks Mark, her mentor. In this excerpt from the book, he shows Claire some surprisingly simple body language tricks she can apply. He then describes the inspiring research of Amy Cuddy of Stanford Business School, as revealed in the fabulous TED Talk, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. Here is what Mark says next:


‘Here’s an interesting conundrum. Can the way you use your body, and even your face, influence how you feel? Everyone knows that the reverse can be true, that is our state of mind, such as happy or worried, influences our facial expressions, causing us to smile or frown … but Dr Cuddy wanted to find out whether the reverse is also true.


‘So she arranged for two randomly chosen groups of people to perform what she calls “high-power poses”  or “low-power poses” for only two minutes, and she took measurements before and after of two hormones in particular, testosterone and cortisol levels, through saliva samples.


‘This is the fascinating bit for me. You’ve probably heard of testosterone, and it’s usually associated with aggression and alpha males. But the fact is, testosterone is important in both men and women as the hormone most closely linked with feelings of inner power and confidence. And the other one, cortisol, is linked to feelings of stress. The more stressed you are, the more cortisol there will be in your system.


‘What Dr Cuddy found was an explanation for how a change in the body changes how we feel and behave: in the people who had assumed “high-power poses”, for example, standing up very big and tall with your shoulders back, testosterone increased on average by about 20%, and it decreased in the people who had been asked to do the “low-power poses” – for instance, making themselves more hunched and small and downward facing, by 10%. Not only that, but levels of the stress hormone, cortisol went down in the high-power pose group by about 25%. Like you just now, neither group had received any good or bad news or been asked to think confident or unconfident thoughts.’


‘This is extraordinary’ said Claire. ‘Are you saying that even if I don’t feel confident or whatever, I should act that way anyway, and it will help me actually feel more confident with important donors?’


‘Yes, that’s exactly how I interpret Dr Cuddy’s research, and applying this technique has already helped countless fundraisers who I’ve trained to use it.


‘But let’s be clear, I’m not saying it as some people would interpret that instruction, act confident in order to trick the donor into thinking you’re confident. I’m saying that when you act that way with your body, the physiology becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. It changes the way you feel, and so the way you instinctively act.’


‘But you talk about power poses. You’re not saying that I should go strutting into a meeting with my nose in the air?


‘Quite right, I’m not saying you should act arrogantly. I am saying it’s essential that you don’t assume the physiology of a low-status person, even if society might presume you should when talking to a powerful Chief Executive. Instead, practise doing the body language of someone who is also important.


‘Now, if all you did was that, I agree, it would come across as cold or arrogant, but when you add it together with the generous focus that I helped you to apply earlier, that is “How can I help this person really enjoy and get value from this meeting?” then your whole energy warms up, so that the signal you send is not arrogance, but charisma, in the best sense of that word.’



Based on Dr Cuddy’s insights, here is a habit which I encourage participants on my Major Gifts Mastery Programme to start practicing. You’ll find it surprisingly powerful, especially if you have watched Dr Cuddy’s Body Language Shapes Who You Are. When could you test it to see for yourself?

  • On the way to important meetings, deliberately walk as tall as possible. Breathe deeply and smile broadly. (If you’re on your own, you could even strut like a rock star. And if this sounds too scary a leap from anything you’ve done before, practice it first before you conduct less important or internal meetings so that you can test whether it helps you when the stakes are low).
  • My new book, The Fundraiser Who Wanted More is available from Amazon. In the book, I reveal the five laws of persuasion that transform your fundraising results.


On July 29, 2015 / 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