Updated: Jun 29, 2022
I guess I was always the kid who had to touch the stove to prove it was hot. And, during my career, as I suffered through a lack of training (in both my careers), most of what I learned was from mentors and my burnt fingers.
If you have not read my thoughts on mentors…now might be a good time.
As for the smell of burnt flesh, here goes.
It all started with my job at CBS-FM. At the time of my hire, it was the number one billing radio station in the United States. Due to some excellent ratings, the ad sales staff was seasoned and had never invested their time in new business development. Mostly they would get their orders (VERY LARGE ONES) after a negotiation with an advertising agency.
I was hired as the new business development director. I was so excited to work at this radio station. It was the biggest and the best, and I got to work with DJs like Cousin Brucie, Ron Lundy, and Harry Harrison. If you are from New York, right now, you are smiling. Not to mention that I knew I’d have the coolest managers and team in town.
I was charged with being a player-coach. Show them (the existing team) how new business development is done and then work with the station’s leadership to create a future-thinking staff who could make rain no matter the conditions.
I started with so much energy that I genuinely think I annoyed most everyone.
I loaded my funnel and danced around my office with each new appointment.
Many asked…why so happy??
I had touched the stove. I realized that if I made enough calls to the right people, I would get appointments, and even if no one else thought that was a reason to celebrate - I knew it was.
You cannot grow your clients or base of donors until you meet with decision-makers.
It took just six weeks for me to close my first piece of business. At that point, I was not the only one dancing!
As a reward for this, my boss sends me a copy of a memo explaining this new position to the higher-ups. They had expected it to be 3 years before I closed any business…hence the group dance.
I had done a lot of thinking as I started in this job. I had a staff meeting every morning alone in my car on the Belt Parkway and thought through every step of the process. I also thought about numbers and how many calls I needed to make each day. I did not have my own magic formula yet. I just knew that the more outbound calls I made, the more appointments I was able to schedule.
I went on to other cities, stations, and positions and developed tools for myself and others to help figure out their personal sales math.
Fast forward these “ah-ha” to 2015 and my career shift to the nonprofit world. By this time, I had built my coaching success on celebrating the process, directing and measuring activity, gaining permission to coach from each member of the team, and of course, the new donor dance (it’s terrible to watch but a joyful thing to be part of).
I got to test these skills in my new environment with a young and enthusiastic fundraiser. She had been an assistant to the CEO and grew to work on grants when our CDO moved her up to an open fundraising position.
This young woman was filled with energy (hire attitude) but new to the world of asking directly for money.
After a slow week (where she made the mistake of telling our CDO that she had no appointments), I called her and set up a lunch.
Over some salads at Applebee’s, I shared a plan with her (train skills).
She would start making 10 calls a day. At the end of the week, she would let me know how many new calls turned into appointments. I coached her on how and where to prospect. We shared different ways to tell the story of our mission, and off she went!
This went on for 2 weeks when she asked for a few minutes to discuss her activity.
She said—” I can no longer make 10 calls a day as I am too busy meeting with new people. I am sorry, Sharon, but it is just too much.”
Ahhh! She had touched the stove.
We knocked it down to 25 calls per week.
Then after a few weeks, I told her that it was up to her how many calls she made to keep her funnel full. She now understood her own personal “sales” math. I shared the theory of making an appointment with yourself…for example-every Tuesday and Thursday—between 8:30-10 am… “I” make new calls. She put it in her calendar and worked on her plan.
She is now a CDO herself. She taught herself how to be successful (with a bit of direction).
There is an OLD adage in the world of Fundraising…your “asks” should be three times your goal. This theory assumes that the level of expertise and the type of donors each person is speaking with are precisely the same…How could that be true??
I challenge you to view each fundraiser as an individual and get them each to understand their own math.
To see how you can use “sales math for nonprofits” to grow your donations, reach out to me
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