Posts Tagged ‘sponsorships’

The Whiteboard Meeting

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising

Step #7            Go to the Whiteboard!

With the information you have now gathered, from both your own research efforts as well as your just-completed Exploratory Meeting, you are now prepared to begin what may be the most important step, and the most energizing and fruitful. It is now time to gather your troops together to generate solicitation and opportunity ideas for the individual donor, foundation or company you are going to present a proposal to.

To make this process as efficient, effective, and fun as possible, first reach out to those members of your team, or to Trustees or Advisory Board members, that are creative, intuitive, experienced, and wise to the ways of “how donors think”, or may have a personal relationship with the potential donor, foundation or company. Formally invite them to participate in what will become known over time as a “Whiteboard Meeting,” to be held in an office or conference room that has a whiteboard in which to write on.

There is something very magical that happens when ideas/thoughts/comments can be documented instantaneously on a whiteboard, where each participant can view them.

The very visual recording of an idea on the whiteboard energizes others to contribute their own ideas or add to the ideas of other participants. Somehow the whiteboard process creates energy, motion and momentum.

The timing of the Whiteboard Meeting can also be advantageous. I have found that Whiteboard Meetings held earlier in the morning yield the best results, even if held earlier than normal business hours. A Whiteboard Meeting held from 7:00 AM-8:30 AM provides fresh thinking, less distractions, and a fun camaraderie amongst the participants. A shared feeling that the “early bird does get the worm.” Assign one of the team members to supply the donuts, bagels, and beverages—it is always appreciated and gives members an energy pick-up when needed.

Also assign one of the members to serve as the scribe for writing on the Whiteboard, and another member to record what ultimately ends up on the Whiteboard.

To begin the Whiteboard Meeting process, and perhaps in advance, provide the participants two pieces of information:

  • First, provide basic background and information on the potential donor, foundation or company that has been researched and gathered.
  • Second, provide basic information on what the donor, foundation or company is looking for or trying to accomplish, again based on research and the Exploratory Meeting.

The next step of the Whiteboard Meeting is brainstorm ideas, programs or initiatives that would clearly match what your organization can offer with the desires/wants/needs/objectives of the potential donor, foundation or company.

This part of the process should look at two buckets:

  1. Are there existing assets (activities/programs/initiatives/strategic partnerships) that your organization currently has that would serve as a solution to the desires and objectives of the potential donor, foundation or company? In other words, are there ongoing/activated assets in your organization’s quiver that would be of immediate interest?
  2. If not, what is the new/yet-to-be created ideas, programs, or initiatives that your organization could formulate and execute on behalf of the donor, foundation or company?

In both of these parts of the process, encourage the participants to use this piece of advice: Big ideas that execute simply! While there is no shortage of ideas, there are generally limited resources, based on funding and staffing. So the focus should be on great opportunities that will not drain your organization of money and people!

The true purpose of the Whiteboard Meeting, in addition to providing a laboratory for great thinking and creative ideas, is to generate those strategies and tactics that will generate the guts of the formal proposal. The results of the Whiteboard Meeting ultimately translate into showing the donor, foundation or company that your organization has spent time thinking about them!

It is also through this process that your organization arrives at what contribution amount you are going to propose. Once you have clearly defined what measurable impact your organization brings to the donor, foundation or company—in other words, clearly answer the question, “Why associate with us?”—you should now be as confident with the level of financial commitment/contribution you are going to propose.

The Whiteboard Meeting generates the ideas that translate into the formal proposal. The formal proposal should then say to the potential donor, foundation or company, “By making this level of contribution to this organization, and seeing how my dollars will be put to work, I can clearly see my donation’s impact is multiplied many-fold.”

And all parties walk away thinking, “This is a great partnership.”

Next Installment: Step #8: Create an Emotional Atmosphere

This is the 7th part of a 10-part series The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising.
-Don Stirling

The Exploratory Meeting

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising

Step #6: The Exploratory Meeting

Now that you have the initial meeting confirmed and set with your potential donor, I am a firm believer that you do not use your first meeting, if at all possible, to make the donation solicitation. The first meeting should accomplish two things:

1. Take the opportunity to provide a general overview of your organization. This may end up being a review of information that you included in your initial phone conversation or introductory email or letter. It is a time to briefly share with your potential donor your organization’s mission and vision, a highlight or two regarding your organization’s work, and a sampling of future projects/initiatives as well as the names of key national/local supporters.

2. (most importantly) the purpose of your visit is to learn as much as possible about your donor, their charitable interests, past experiences (positive and negative), and their overall theory of change. While you will have prepared yourself in advance of the meeting to know as much as you can about your potential donor, this is a time to let them talk, to let them express their philanthropic vision, and to find out what burns inside of them when it comes to charitable endeavors.

To learn as much as you can and to keep the conversation flowing and lively, ask lots of questions! Those questions may include:

  • Tell me about your (yourself/your family/your company)?
  • Is philanthropy important to you and your family? Important to your company? What is your personal theory of change?
  • How are requests for charitable donations handled and processed? If there is a formal grant-making process, how often does the governing entity meet and how often are grants reviewed and distributed?
  • What is the average size or range of charitable donation amounts?
  • What charitable organization do you contribute to currently? What drove the decision to give to those particular organizations?
  • Are you pleased/dissatisfied with the effectiveness and efficiency of the organizations you or your company has contributed to in the past?
  • Does your family or company have a designated “charity/cause of choice”?
  • Do the organizations you have contributed to in the past provide you a quantifiable and measurable report on the impact of your gifts?
  • What has been the most fulfilling charitable experience you have been involved with?
  • Do you sit on any boards of the organizations you contribute to? Has this been a worthwhile experience?
  • Do you or members of your family, or your company, enjoy participating in on-the-ground humanitarian missions? What organizations have provided you that opportunity?
  • What are the most difficult issues you face when it comes to charitable giving?
  • Are you in a position where you are entertaining proposals for additional giving opportunities?
  • How do you personally measure the success of your philanthropic activities? What are those accomplishments that earn an “A” grade?

The idea, obviously, is to gain as much information and insights as you can into the giving philosophy and inclinations, as well as the giving process, of the potential donor you are meeting with. Learn what their hot buttons are, and why. Equally important is to learn what to avoid. Listen intently to not only what the potential donors says, but what they don’t say. Get a sense of what burns inside your potential donor and what generates excitement as they speak to their past giving experiences.

All of this information will help you better formulate and tailor the specific contribution proposal you will ultimately present to your potential donor. Perhaps most importantly, out of this initial meeting with your potential donor, you will gain a sense from your potential donor the answer to these two most important questions:

  • Do they have the ability to pay?
  • Do they have the desire to play?

Now armed with invaluable information you have learned first-hand from your potential donor, you are now ready to begin the very exciting and energizing process of building a tailor-made contribution proposal. And the fun continues!

Next Installment: Step #7: Go to the Whiteboard!
This is the 6th part of a 10-part series The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising.
-Don Stirling