Are you too busy trying to please to actually deliver?
Do you ever feel that your to-do list is so long it will never be completed?
Fundraisers tend to be people pleasers. We care about others. That’s why most of us went into this profession in the first place. We like making people happier and making their lives easier. It is easy to assume that giving someone what they want, or what they ask for, will make them happy…but what if we give them something they didn’t even know that they needed?
I had a wonderful afternoon coaching the Account Management team of a Corporate Fundraising Department in a lovely charity last month. The team was focused, ambitious and made up exclusively of highly capable women. Brilliant! They had brought me in to explore how they could become more effective at raising money for their charity. They wanted to be the best they could be. The team was blessed with a supportive manager who truly appreciated the importance of work-life balance, yet the whole team was working far more than their contracted hours every day.
Despite all their time, effort and enthusiasm, each team member shared that they didn’t feel that they were investing enough time in thinking strategically. This meant that their corporate partnerships continued to tick along nicely but were not growing in line with their ambition. When I asked what was filling everyone’s time it was the usual requests that fundraisers get from their corporate partners every day – “can we have more fundraising materials”…”can you let us know exactly how much each store/department/location/activity has raised so far?”…”can you send over an agenda for our next meeting?”
Don’t get me wrong; I know that all of these things seem important but the the team that I was training found themselves going into “autopilot mode” and responding to each and every request as soon as possible. They wanted to keep their corporate partners happy.
This reminded me of something that happened just before my son was born. Being the organised individual (control freak) that I am, I distributed a Google Doc to friends and family of everything that my husband and I thought we needed for our new arrival and everything we had already bought ourselves. I asked people to move items from the “still needed” list to the “already have” list as they bought them so that we didn’t receive or buy any duplicates.
I had spent months reading books, articles and internet forums to make sure that we would have all of the essentials before our little bundle of joy arrived. Then I saw my friend Harriet. Harriet hadn’t followed my rules. Harriet had gone “off list” and bought things for me (not my son!) that she thought were missing from my list.
It takes guts to go “off list” but Harriet chose to do this as she was confident that she knew better than I did. I won’t go into too much detail about what Harriet gave me but let’s just say that when I was blessed with a son who wanted to breastfeed every half an hour all through the day and night, Harriet’s gift really helped ease the pain I was experiencing.
So what has Harriet’s gift and an over-worked Account Management team got to do with each other? Well, sometimes even the wisest of people don’t always know what they need, especially if they’ve never done it before. I believe that the role of a Corporate Fundraiser is to help their partners maximise the benefits of the relationship whilst raising as much money as possible as a result.
This isn’t done by giving our partners everything they ask for.
To be the best you can be as a corporate fundraiser I suggest that you need to be constantly thinking one step ahead of your partners and drawing on your previous experiences. You need to be quietly confident that your knowledge and experience puts you in the best position to know what your corporate partner really needs rather than just responding to what they ask for. Once your partners see that your support eases their pain in a way that they hadn’t expected I guarantee that they they will perceive you as one of the best.
Mandy Johnson, Change.org
Mandy Johnson is the UK Director of Partnerships for Change.org where she works with some of the UK’s most innovative charities. Despite being a former international tax specialist Mandy was recently named as one of the 50 most influential fundraisers of 2015 by Civil Society’s ‘Fundraising’ Magazine.
Want to learn more about corporate fundraising? Come to our Corporate Fundraising Training Day in early 2016 (exact date TBC). This course will help you to brush up on your corporate skills; hear about what makes a partnership great (or not so great) from the company themselves; as well as how to pitch and secure that big account. To register your interest in this course, please email us. We also have a Corporate Special Interest Group – join their LinkedIn group to find out more about upcoming meetings.