Bag Carrier, Authenticator or Rain-Maker?
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In recent weeks, a number of people have approached me with questions, all variations on a theme: effective solicitation. The minister who shies from asking his parishioners to support an important project because he wants to preserve his role as a counselor, the board members who don’t always want to be the ones out asking, the executive director who just plain feels awkward approaching others for money.
What’s a body to do?
A lot of the anxiety and confusion surrounding soliciting charitable gifts is the result of a lack of understanding of the roles involved in an effective ask. We usually think of the asker and prospect.
Actually, there are four distinct and separate roles—whether you’ve planned for them or not. Obviously you need someone to ask, someone to whom you make the request. On the solicitor side of the equation there are three, however.
Over the next three weeks, I’ll unpack each one of the roles that together, comprise the solicitor.
Bag carrier, authenticator, and rainmaker: three distinct functions, which are present for every successful solicitation. They can filled by one, two, three or more persons.
Today, let’s talk about the bag carrier. A perfunctory role? Not so.
The bag carrier is the person who brings both the collateral to be used as well as any pledge or giving instruments. Even in an electronic solicitation, these elements must be present. Going prepared would seem to be obvious. I’ve seen more than one situation when the donor was ready to make a gift and there was no pledge instrument ready, however.
On a particular ask several years ago, I was assigned the role of bag carrier. A seven-figure gift was in the offing. I had visited the prospective donor a month earlier in preparation. This meeting was to include the board chair (rain-maker), college president (authenticator) and myself.
This meeting was anticipated to be the first of perhaps two or three. Such was not to be, however.
Conversation during the luncheon moved rapidly toward the moment of truth. Suddenly, the formal request was made by the board chair. There it was—figuratively on the table.
As I slowly sipped my coffee, I fully expected the prospective donor to respond with some version of “I’ll consider it.” Instead he said, “Yes”—on the spot. Luckily, I had brought a pledge instrument. Quickly, I put it before the donor. Reviewing it carefully, he signed it without hesitation.
This outcome was all the more remarkable as this particular donor in question had been in a mating dance with the college president for a decade.
Sometimes, it just takes the right team—and everyone knowing their role.
First, plan in advance and consciously assign the roles. Second, always—always—go prepared. Never assume. Never predict. Prepare for the unforeseen.
I hesitate to think about the gift that may never have been, had I not brought everything necessary to close. Perhaps another decade?
Principle 4 of The Eight Principles™ is Learn & Plan™. Learn who your prospective donors are and then plan how to approach them. Planning is critical if you want to be successful. 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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