The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

Posted in How To Guides, Ask the Experts General Fundraising

3 TED talks to elevate your fundraising game

As a non-profit fundraiser you may not always have the time to seek new ideas to supercharge your skills and development programmes. That’s where TED talks come in…

Last week I was very fortunate to go and see Will I Am, the musician/entrepreneur/The Voice presenter give a talk about his approach to creativity and success. When asked about how he manages to be so innovative, his answer was clear: ‘Cross-pollination.’

He went on to explain that if you only study your own field of expertise, you’re probably going to think like everyone else and so (at best), get the results that everyone else is getting.

But when you proactively try to understand what’s going on in areas different to your own, you start to clearly see patterns that you can use to improve your own results.

For this reason, for more than 12 years I’ve gone on courses and read books on subjects outside of fundraising, in areas including psychology, sport, leadership, behavioural economics. Over the years this practice has really helped me find dozens and dozens of ideas to help fundraisers raise more money, which I share through my blogs, books, coaching and courses.

So, when I was recently asked to name three TED talks I’d recommend to any professional fundraiser, it’s no coincidence that two of the three are not even about fundraising…

1. Start with why by Simon Sinek

Simon’s inspiring talk demonstrates that tapping in to the reason WHY, rather than WHAT you do or HOW you do it, is what made The Wright Brothers, Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King, among others, far more successful than their better-resourced rivals.

The most common mistake I find in most fundraisers’ communication is the tendency to talk/write to donors too much about what their charity does. At best this leaves people lukewarm, even if this is what they asked you to tell them. The supporter may seem interested (intellectually), but they are unlikely to feel moved to take action/give.

Watching and really thinking about the implications of Sinek’s ideas will improve your skill when you write, pitch and speak to your supporters.

Note, I’ve also found this TED talk works really well as part of a team or department away day. After watching it together, have a brainstorm with the whole group about how each of you can include more inspiring WHY content in the way you communicate. One solution is to improve everyone’s ability and access to real examples/stories that bring your WHY to life. So, a session sharing stories and examples about why your cause matters can be incredibly powerful.

In The Small Big, psychologists Steve Martin, Noah Goldstein and Robert Cialdini found that as little as 10 minutes a day focusing on stories about the cause more than doubled the income raised by a group of telephone fundraisers.

2. The way we think about charity is dead wrong by Dan Pallotta

This TED talk is about charities, but that’s not the only reason I find it so helpful.

Firstly, I love it because it robustly addresses several ways in which the general public, even highly intelligent people, have been conditioned to think about charity in ways that are simply incorrect.

He lays into the hypocrisy whereby charities are expected to achieve the extra-ordinary (e.g. cure cancer, prevent homelessness all together etc) while being criticised if they do various things that would be entirely expected and reasonable in the corporate sector, e.g. in relation to risk and innovation, salaries, investment in fundraising etc.

At its simplest, watching this TED talk will put fire in your belly for how to address common questions such as investment in ‘overhead’.

But the other reason I love it is that it’s a brilliant example of how to re-frame. Within my Corporate Mastery and Individual Giving Mastery Programmes, we show you how to help someone see things differently through re-framing.

If you would like to get better at either skill, I recommend you study the way Dan uses techniques such as visual contrast (using step-by-step bar graphs) and story-telling. The effect of these tactics is to crush to smithereens the various ill-informed arguments which initially may have seemed reasonable to the neutral listener.

3. Your body posture shapes who you are by Professor Amy Cuddy

This is the second most viewed TED talk ever, with many millions of views, and with good reason. Sooner or later any successful fundraiser needs to speak confidently in difficult, stressful situations, be it with the powerful donors, sceptical colleagues or Board members.

In this inspiring, practical talk, Professor Cuddy explains that while most people are aware that their body language affects the way they are perceived by others, most are not sufficiently aware of the flip side to this…altering your body language (even for as little as two minutes) before an important meeting also has a powerful effect on your own thoughts, behaviour and results.

She shows you a technique that has been shown to increase your confidence by at least 20% and reduce the stress you feel by at least 25%. I’ve been sharing this technique with fundraisers on my Programmes for years now, and it works. For instance, a while ago I received an email from a university major donor fundraiser named Stephanie. I had shown her the Amy Cuddy technique during one of my Fundraising Mastery Programmes. When she contacted me she had just got back from a meeting with a potential donor in which this tactic had really helped. 

She not only used this technique while waiting for her pre-meeting coffee in Starbucks, but she also did it again during the 20 minutes that she was kept waiting for this busy lawyer to arrive for the meeting. When he finally turned up, he was extremely brusque and indeed critical of her organisation.

But Stephanie told me that because of how she had prepared for the meeting physically, she felt the confidence and poise to not react defensively, find out more about what the donor really cared about, and implement the objection-handling techniques (the re-frames) we had practiced on the course. The result? By the end of the meeting the donor’s manner had completely changed and he had happily decided to make a donation of £12,000.

So, if you watch just one TED talk today, let it be this one! And you can read the full story of how Stephanie got this result here.

Written by Rob Woods, Director of Bright Spot which provides training and coaching to help fundraisers grow their results. He is also the author of several fundraising books including The Fundraiser Who Wanted More.

Leave a comment

FUNDRAISER NAME