Successful Fundraising: getting chosen over the competition
Your important nonprofit or exciting startup helps the world be a better place. But now you’ve got to raise money. You’ve created a terrific pitch deck, have a highly competent management team and terms, and have identified donor prospects with major gift potential. You’ve designed a multi-channel approach to build relationships with small investors to excite them to becoming large investors. Why aren’t you raising all the funding you deserve?
- It’s not you, your message. or your organization;
- It’s not the strength of your relationship or who you ‘know’;
- It’s not the market, your competition, your return potential or your marketing materials.
Somehow your investors must choose between investments that seem equally promising.
CRITERIA VS. CONTENT
Ultimately, investors choose opportunities based on their own idiosyncratic choice criteria; your marketing efforts may be entering the wrong way, with the wrong goal, offering the right data and asking the right questions at the wrong time.
Investor funds are not sitting there waiting for you to show up, no matter how compelling your information or terms. You may be requesting funding that
1. is earmarked for something else;
2. needs stakeholder buy-in;
3. may be outside their internal goals, relationships, strategy, or agreements.
Sadly, as an outsider, you have no access to their hidden or historic arrangements or political mind-fields. And asking them about their criteria will only get you the obvious answers. The more successful choice is to first, collaboratively, discern their values-based, unique decision/choice criteria and then offer the exact pitch to match it. After all, most pitch decks and requests for funds will sound somewhat similar. If nothing else, your ability to facilitate a collaboration will set you apart from the competition.
ALIGNMENT CRITERIA FIRST
Decades ago I realized the difference between choice criteria (personal, idiosyncratic) vs content (data). As a sales professional on Wall Street I was frustrated with the seeming gap between what I thought prospects needed (my solution, of course) and their willingness to buy. Once I started up a tech company in London and became The Buyer I realized the problem: before any decision to buy or fund, investors use an idiosyncratic set of choice factors familiar only to them.
As a Buyer, before I bought anything I had to align my values-based criteria with my team’s often divergent and – conventional choice benchmarks aside – subjective, criteria. Whether we met before a vendor meeting or afterwards I learned to never ignore this team alignment: our vibrant conversations always brought more considerations to the table than I would have considered myself; sometimes we discovered as-yet-unforeseen fallout that needed to be handled prior to any action.
And then the problem with marketing materials. As a sales professional they were a tool to exhibit the data I believed relevant; as a buyer they were biased by the facts the presenters wanted me to know, but often missed my unique buying criteria.
I used this realization to change the course of my own selling and fundraising; I first uncovered and discussed decision criteria and then matched my pitch content accordingly. Rather than designing pitch material based on what I thought they wanted to know, I designed flexible materials that made it easy to fit my content into their choice criteria.
As a result of my findings, in 1985 I developed a decision facilitation model and guidelines for designing presentation materials for my sales staff. With my new realization as a buyer, my Asperger’s systems- thinking brain, and some testing, I coded the path of internal/group decision making and invented Buying Facilitation®, a generic, ethical, facilitation tool that expedites decision making and choice.
I’ve been teaching and writing books on Buying Facilitation® as a front-end to the sales model ever since. Used in fundraising, Buying Facilitation® helps investors determine all aspects of their choice criteria while encouraging win/win collaboration.
NOTE: Investors and buyers go through this process anyway – with you or without you. You can either use Buying Facilitation® to facilitate choice more efficiently (even during your presentation) or just keep smiling and dialing until you find the low hanging fruit who have finally gotten their ducks in a row.
Buying Facilitation® works on the following assumptions:
- Outsiders (sellers, fundraisers, etc.) can never understand the behind-the-scenes, idiosyncratic criteria used to decide. Each group has their own unique sets of rules, beliefs, values, vision they choose from;
- Until the idiosyncratic choice criteria are factored, no decision to buy or invest will be made;
- Information is only relevant when it fits into defined idiosyncratic initiatives and parameters.
Using Buying Facilitation® first enables collaboration through the full range of systemic decisions necessary for buy-in and choice; THEN customized content must meet their specific criteria.
PRESENTING WITH BUYING FACILITATION®
Here are a few tips:
Your first job is to be a consultant (even on cold calls or group meetings) to facilitate decision making. Otherwise, you’re offering data into a black box of unknowns. Stop trying to have a ‘relationship’ or gather and share data up front; money goes to those opportunities that first match their hidden criteria regardless of how likeable you are.
- On your first calls, use Facilitative Questions to help whomever you speak with (yes, even the associates and gatekeepers) recognize how they choose, and achieve consensus for, new investments. This is not a simple Q/A session, as much of their decision making criteria is unconscious. Even if they usually fund projects like yours, they still need agreement to choose which of the available choices to give their finite dollars to.
- Still on the phone, use Buying Facilitation® to help your Communication Partner figure out how to help his/her team prioritize areas such as management, industry fit, partnership issues, and communication. If you have a great solution but don’t meet other criteria you may not get funded. Or you might. It’s a roll of the dice. And again, asking about these rather than facilitating the Other’s answers will get you biased answers from the person you’re speaking with which may not represent the entire group.
- Work toward getting the full Stakeholder group to your presentation if possible, or your data will be ‘lost in translation’ when they discuss it later with the absent associates.
- Face-to-face visit: Pitch/present in accordance with what was discovered prior to the meeting. Marketing materials must be developed to cover any possibilities and used appropriately. So if the group deems Communication a #1 criteria, you’ll have a slide on Communication ready to go.
- Collaboratively discuss how your situation matches the investor’s criteria; where it’s lacking see if you can figure out, together, how to mitigate the fallout.
NOTE: if you’re in a group pitch situation, do #1-3 as your opening gambit. It still must be done before you proceed with your pitch.
Ultimately, there is one important question to ask yourself: Do you want to pitch your solution? Or help investors give you money? Two different activities. And you need both.
See details on a two-day training program: Getting Funded – tailoring your messaging for each investor to break from the competition.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of Buying Facilitation® and author of 7 books on the subject including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity. She is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and coach. Sharon Drew also is a communication expert; she’s authored the bestseller What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Visit Sharon Drew’s award winning blog to read her latest thinking. www.sharondrewmorgen.com. Contact her at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.