The world of fundraising is changing. After being deluged for so long by email solicitations and direct mail campaigns, donors are demanding a more personalized approach when being asked for money. They want fundraising messages that motivate them to support a cause and fundraising professionals who understand the way they make decisions.
Your ability to communicate your cause in a way that persuades donors and others to take action and give support is your competitive edge in the crowded world of fundraising. The approach I discuss with my co-author, Clare Segal, in The Influential Fundraiser is about using the psychology of persuasion and developing a competitive edge, so that you can become a powerful and effective influencer.
Influence is a special kind of communication skill you probably already have, but that must be improved in order to be a successful fundraiser. There are three main reasons why it is more important than ever to hone your influence skills:
1. Today’s donors and supporters are more sophisticated and demanding. It follows, then, that our techniques for persuasion also need to be more sophisticated and targeted. Influence skills can help you provide information to donors in a targeted and appropriate way to secure the result you want and need.
2. Donors don’t want to feel that they are part of a mass-marketing initiative. They want to feel special and important. Donors and fundraisers alike are moving away from mass fundraising to one-on-one and more personal contact.
3. Influence skills can help you engage an exceptional individual donor in a way that will allow him or her to make a transformational gift. You will need access to influence skills to engage and enthuse in these one-to-one, high-payoff situations.
I define influencing as: the managed relationship of helping others to understand, accept and act on your point of view. These components are further defined as:
Managed relationship: In order to achieve a specific outcome with an individual or group, you must be clear on the result you want and have a flexible plan about how to achieve it.
Helping others: Influence is different from negotiation or coercion in that with influence, you are trying to help someone change his/her mind or to come around to your point of view (as opposed to feeling manipulated).
Understand, accept and act: Successful influence must contain these three elements. You want people to really know what the challenge is, agree that they have a responsibility to help, and do something concrete to help.
Points of view: An important point to remember with influence is that the way we see the world or feel about issues may be very different for other people.
There are two common reasons why many fundraisers go wrong in their attempt to influence:
1. Mechanistic thinking and advice about fundraising: This approach emphasizes one “right” way to solicit donors; much of this approach is drawn from old-fashioned sales techniques. The reality is that much of this method just doesn’t work anymore – today’s donors are more sophisticated and demanding in what messages they accept or reject.
2. Fundraisers make incorrect or inappropriate assumptions about the beliefs and behaviors of others: This often leads fundraisers to draw the wrong conclusion about how the donor will respond to a specific technique or approach; the result is that donors often say no because the fundraiser’s “obvious” logic isn’t always theirs.
The 5 Ps of Influence
We have developed a systematic approach to influence called the 5Ps of Influence. The five elements are interrelated and interdependent – none is effective by itself. Fundraisers need to take the time to work through the whole framework. The 5Ps of Influence are:
1. Passion: identifying what you want and why it’s important
2. Proposal: shaping your idea in a way that’s compelling
3. Preparation: organizing your ideas and thinking
4. Persuasion: using psychology to frame your influence messages
5. Persistence: dealing with challenges and objections
In this article, I’d like to discuss the first of The 5 Ps of Influence, which is passion.
Passion involves both emotional engagement – your commitment to the cause – and emotional intelligence – managing your emotions. The starting point for passion should always be simple and direct communication. Use straightforward language, and other people will understand what you are saying. One way to do this is to create and practice an elevator pitch about your cause and/or organization. Every elevator pitch should have three elements: think, feel and do. These elements are designed to help you shape your thinking and to answer some specific questions:
Think: What is it you want your audience to know or understand as a result of this communication?
Feel: What emotion do you want them to have as they receive the communication?
Do: What specific action do you want them to take as a result of the communication?
When preparing your elevator pitch, reverse this order as follows:
1. Begin with the people you want to influence and be clear on exactly what action you want them to take.
2. Imagine the emotion or feeling in those people that is most likely to move them to take that action.
3. Finally, select and shape the information or data that you think is most likely to create that emotion.
Emotional intelligence (EI) – managing your emotions –is the ability to successfully manage your internal and external relationships. Internal means the security and confidence you have about yourself, your needs, your values and your beliefs. External means the way in which you interact and engage effectively with others in social and professional settings. Emotionally intelligent fundraisers are simply more successful. There are five dimensions to EI. Working through these five dimensions and assessing your competence in each will give you’re a more rounded view of yourself and your own passion:
1. Self-awareness: understanding what you want
2. Self-regulation: controlling your feelings
3. Motivation: having the energy and commitment to do something
4. Empathy: understanding how others feel
5. Social skills: being able to get along with others
The ability to influence donors to support your cause or your organization is your competitive advantage – especially during this economy when donors are more selective about who they give their money to and how much. The 5Ps of Influence are designed to help you achieve the results your organization needs in the fast-changing and more competitive fundraising environment that exists today. Those fundraisers who learn to hone their influence skills will not only make themselves more valuable to their organizations – they will ensure the viability of their organizations for the future.
Watch for my next article when I’ll discuss what five questions you must address in your fundraising proposal.
Image credit: PaulaAMarshall.wordpress.com, blog.ness.com
This post was originally published at CausePlanet on 2/1/2011.