Authenticator: Validating Your Passion (to Donors)
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Last week, I kicked off this series of unpacking the roles solicitors must assume when they seek a gift. They are: bag carrier, authenticator and rainmaker. In last week’s article, I explored the concept of bag carrier. What might seem mechanical and perhaps a perfunctory role can actually deliver in a clinch.
The second soliciting role is the authenticator. The name says it. Essential qualities of the authenticator are a passion for the cause being pitched and a thorough, almost innate knowledge of the organization.
When we approach a prospective investor in our cause, being authentic—being real and believable—is the first thing someone will notice.
You can’t fake this. Sometimes people try.
When they do, they come off as the proverbial telephone solicitor. Even if they are sitting directly in front of the donor, they’re blandly reading a script that someone else has prepared for them. They might as well be speaking to the wall.
Trying to promote a cause or organization that you really don’t understand—or passionately believe in—is like wearing clothes that don’t quite fit. It’s obvious—to everyone.
By definition, being authentic is being sincere and real. OK, so how do you do "real"?
Having a good knowledge of what your organization does and why it does it is the first step. Knowing the real world impact of the good work your organization does is second. Finally, infusing this understanding with a heart-felt passion gives what you know a genuine and sober character that cannot be doubted.
Genuine passion and understanding will be felt and appreciated by a donor even if they don’t agree with you.
And that’s the litmus test.
When a prospective investor is convinced of your veracity, even if he disagrees with your point of view, you know you’re there.
That’s why you need to test your knowledge and passion with someone who isn’t a part of your team. Before putting yourself before a prospective investor, try it out on someone who isn’t aware and who doesn’t yet have a formed opinion.
So you’ve got the passion and you’ve acquired the knowledge. You’ve even gone to the effort of identifying the real-world impact of your organization.
You’ve nailed it, right? Not quite.
The most daunting hurdle isn’t knowing the story, believing the story or being passionate about it. It’s something far subtler—and a lot more difficult to vault over.
This obstacle is something ophthalmologists see a lot. It’s called “myopia.” Medically, myopia is the condition of seeing sharply only those things that are right in front of you.
In the world of ideas it’s being focused on your own point of view.
The prospective donor senses it when you use insider language or jargon. How many times have you read the mission or purpose statement of a well-meaning nonprofit and wondered what it all meant? You know the ones: those with as many undefined acronyms as words.
A near-sighted perspective has another shortcoming. With the insider perspective comes insider knowledge. Not a bad thing in and of itself.
The challenge is remembering that the person to whom you’re communicating—whether through email, text message, snail mail, phone conversation or in person—doesn’t have that insider knowledge.
So, what happens?
Since you know the organization and what it does so well, you assume that the prospective investor already has a good bit of that understanding. Assuming inside knowledge is the most insidious demon we face in getting ourselves understood by another.
Because it’s hard for us to even identify what’s inside and what’s not.
First, good ideas simply don’t sell themselves—no matter how good they are. You only have to recall the outcome of Bill Gates’ first meetings with the suits in Armonk to know that. Windows, what? Nonsense. Everyone knows computers are big machines doing big work for big organizations.
Second, understanding why someone would naturally support you is critical. Principle 4 of The Eight Principles™ is Learn & Plan™.
Third, take this knowledge to craft a message that makes sense to them.
You needn’t loose your integrity. What you’ll gain is an investor, a partner. Principle 1 of The Eight Principles™ is Donors are the Drivers®. Donors drive philanthropy with their visions and values.
The money is critical to your organization, but incidental to the investor who is realizing his fundamental values.
Think about it: When was the last time you gave to something because it was important to someone else?
There you have it.
Being convincing as the authenticator in a solicitation is critical. Just as being an effective bag carrier or a powerful rainmaker.
It makes no difference whether there are three persons or just one—all three roles must be executed with precision and confidence if you get to “yes.”
Next week, we’ll take up the role of the rainmaker. That’s the one that usually comes to mind when the term “solicitor” is used.
Until then, I extend my thanks to all those who have shared their concerns and frustrations on this all-important topic.
Let me hear from you. Please share your situation and the challenges you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me and I’ll arrange a brief consult providing you with practical guidance. I’ll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Success is waiting. Go out and achieve it.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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