The First Key To Fundraising Influence

Key to influence

Rob Woods | 9 August 2016

If we are to help donors and supporters decide to give generously, we must help them feel some certainty that this would achieve something they care about.

But one of the major challenges to doing this well is that what they care about may be different from what we care about. And even if we care about exactly the same thing, it is highly likely that the way they would describe this problem is different from how we would.

For this reason, as I state in my book The Fundraiser Who Wanted More, before we start trying to work out what to say and how to say it to a donor, we must first seek to understand and appreciate their world.

Of course, it makes sense to try and ‘see it from the other person’s point of view’, but the surprising thing I’ve found is that doing this in practice is not as easy as most people think. It won’t come naturally, so wise fundraisers acknowledge the challenge and take deliberate steps to achieve it.

For instance, even if you have managed to research a company, trust or donor on-line before a meeting, seeking to not say too much early in a meeting is a wise strategy. On-line research can only say so much, and is often misleading. One thing I reveal on the Major Donor Masterclass is how to help the donor be willing to answer your questions early on, so that you can build your appreciation of who they really are.


What if you are influencing a group?

But what if your chance to influence for a gift is through a pitch or presentation to a group? Then it is much harder to make the conversation two-way. So in advance of the presentation, we need to work harder than any normal fundraiser would at gaining insight into the precise reasons why that pitch panel/ audience would say ‘YES’.

On Win that Pitch, we explore many ways to do this, including: making calls to other charities that have worked with that partner in the past; following key players on social media; and doing field research (e.g. visiting their shop as a customer to properly understand their business challenges and opportunities etc).

But then, if it is a pitch or presentation, the ultimate secret to holding the audience’s attention is to not only have found out why they would say ‘YES’, but to structure  your presentation in line with this.

On Presenting to Influence we learn how to create a ‘15 second summary’ which not only grabs the audience’s attention from the very start, but also provides you with an easy-to-follow structure to help you design the rest of the presentation. When two years ago, Tori Griffiths from NSPCC used this technique in a presentation for a partnership (worth £250,000) with a retail company, her presentation was so persuasive the company cancelled the staff vote which had originally been planned in order to choose her charity that very day.

What could you do today which would help you get that bit more understanding and appreciation of your donor’s point of view? How could you use this insight to change not only what you say / write, but also the order in which you say it?


Rob Woods is an award-winning trainer and the author of The fundraiser who wanted more


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