Preparation Drives Success
“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” -Confucius
In advance of a donor visit a few weeks back, I reached out to the Board member connected to our prospect so we could schedule time to discuss and practice our solicitation in advance. His response, “I think I’m good and, besides, I’m super busy and I hate role playing.”
I told him that I understood his reluctance and appreciated how valuable his time was. Then, instead of trying to convince him how critical a pre-meeting rehearsal was to securing an investment — knowing that he’s a huge sports fan — I just asked him to think about professional athletes for a second.
I asked him if he thought that Jack Nicklaus really needed to work on his sand shots before every tournament, why Michael Jordan practiced his free-throws every day, or why football teams spend an entire week specifically preparing for the team they’ll be facing in the next game. They are all elite athletes who have mad skills, so why do they insist on practicing so much?
Fortunately, he accepted my premise and asked me if I really thought it would make that big of a difference to practice in advance of our donor meeting. He knows the donor, he’s been involved with the organization for years and he understands the project we are seeking investments for. I told him that, in my experience, the likelihood of securing a commitment from a donor is directly correlated to the amount of advance preparation and yes, practice, that we can do. If we want to “win” we have to practice in advance, simple as that.
When it comes to a donor solicitations, to ensure our success we have to:
- plan for who will be talking about what (including who will make the specific ask)
- prepare the questions we want to ask of the donor (and anticipate how their answers might re-direct the conversation)
- discuss potential objections and how best to address them.
And, while the actual preparation for a donor solicitation is different than what you need to do in advance of a client presentation, the necessity for preparation and rehearsal is the same. Here are four essential steps you can take as part of your “pre-game” routine:
- Write out an outline/script for the conversation/presentation
- Practice with your solicitation team or in front of someone who represents the donor/audience
- Refine your approach based on what happens during the practice session(s)
- Create a note card or cheat-sheet to review right before you go into the meeting/presentation that lists the key message points and/or questions necessary to engage your donor/audience
These are not meant to be comprehensive by any stretch, just guidelines for your preparation.
At the end of the day, just make sure that you, and everyone involved in the donor solicitation, makes time to prepare and rehearse. That way, when you’re in the moment, your comfort and confidence level will both be high and you will increase the odds of your success. I’ve seen it work too many times to put my trust in anything less.
Thank you for the amazing work you do each day!
David Gee, Vice President, HPS Chicago