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Category Archives: Life

Why Being Positive Makes You a Target for Criticism

target on person

In the midst of so many horrific, unsettling and unnerving events going on worldwide – from Ebola to Isis and many wars and natural disasters in between – it can be hard to maintain a positive outlook on all the good that still exists.

The media has done an excellent job of using all of these stories to sell papers based on shock value. How scary can they make the headline? How much hype can they create within a single article? Unfortunately, the duty then falls upon our shoulders to seek out the truth and to build up our own sense of hope.

Hope – what a powerful word.

Hope, or the lack thereof, can completely change your outlook on life. Even when surrounded by negativity, feeling hopeful can keep that bounce in your step and that smile on your face. However, in thinking late one night before bed as I had just scrolled through some of the latest headlines and was reflecting on some of the conversations I had that day, I came to the conclusion that one unexpected byproduct of having hope is that it can make you a target for criticism.

Anymore, if you don’t give in to fueling the hype machine with your responses to casual conversations about politics, wars, healthcare or the weather, people tend to criticize your motive for doing so. Want to see this point proven first hand? The next time someone asks you “So what do you think about [insert negative topic]?” Respond with, “Oh, I’m really not concerned. The solution is in good hands. And it’s still a beautiful day, right?”

The criticism you’ll receive, either by verbal rebuttal to continue the conversation or by a strange look and an awkward silence to end the conversation, will fall into one of three categories. Let’s take a closer look at what they are.

You don’t care enough

Myth: If you’re hopeful that things are okay or will all work out on their own, you simply must not care enough. Not true. You care, you care a lot. This is why you’ve taken on the challenge of cultivating a positive outlook at a time when it is the default and the easy way out to be negative. Regurgitating the mass media’s opinion takes little care whatsoever. It’s the positive people that truly do care about the greater good by maintaining hope.

You are naïve

Myth: If you’re not worrying, it’s only because you are too naïve to understand the gravity of what’s really going on. Not true. If anything you have a better understanding of the topic than most people which is exactly why you’re choosing not to worry. Either you know it’s something not worth worrying about or you know that worrying does absolutely nothing to solve a problem, even if it is of concern.

You are not doing everything you can to help

Myth: If you’re holding on to hope that the solution is already in good hands, you aren’t doing everything you can to personally help the situation. Not true. Pertaining to 99 percent of the world’s topics of concern, you personally can’t do much more to help than to remain calm and positive. By not contributing to the hysteria or spreading around exaggerated facts to scare people further, you’re doing one of the most important things you can be doing – spreading peace and hope.

It’s a tough topic, but one that I think is very important for us to give some thought to. Are we the hopeful ones being criticized into today’s frenzy of negativity and fear or are we the ones fueling it? Don’t let the risk of criticism stop you from cultivating hope in your own life!

In what ways have you experienced criticism for being positive? Share your own stories by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2014 in Life

 

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Failing Forward: Why It’s Important to Fail Often

failing

Failing is a necessary part of life. I’ll refrain from inserting too many cheesy “fail” quotes because I’m sure you’ve seen most of them already, but they do carry truth. Instead, I will say that I fail often and in a variety of ways. Sometimes my failures are so silly they make me roll my eyes and giggle. Sometimes my failures are so frustrating that they bring me to tears. Both types are equally as important. Why? Because failing is a sure indication that some pretty cool things are happening in our lives.

To help you come to this same realization – that failing often is a good thing – I may need to paint a clearer picture. We should not label failing as “failure” so long as we learn to fail forward, to get stronger, smarter and more courageous as a result. Here are six reasons why, after allowing yourself a brief pity party, you should take a deep breath and embrace failing with gratitude.

  1. You are challenging yourself

We don’t often fail at things that are simple, easy or common. No, we fail at things that require taking a leap, stretching our limits and coming out of our comfort zone. These are all good things (regardless of the outcome)! If you’re not failing often, you’re not pushing yourself often. I’d much rather know that I’m pushing my own limits – and every so slowly moving them – than to never fail the rest of my life.

  1. You are learning how to deal (gracefully) with disappointment

Learning how to deal with disappointment is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn in life. We’re moving toward a society that is so politically correct and focused on being “fair” that we’re creating a world of wimps. I said it. It’s important that we learn early and often the burn of disappointment from failing. It hurts, it sucks and it sticks around for a while. I still feel the discomfort of failing, but it no longer brings me to my knees as it used to. By failing often I have learned, time and time again, how to quickly regain my composure, fight back my tears and look for the bright side of things.

  1. You are growing tougher skin

The more you fail, the more resilient you become at brushing off the feeling of failure. In looking back at my childhood, there were always one or two kids that just seemed to have terrible luck. They couldn’t catch a break in school, sports or social circles. But I remember these kids as being some of the most pleasant people, always smiling and even learning to laugh at themselves. They grew tougher skin early in life and I’m slowly catching up. Things I would once deem as “catastrophic failures” are now merely a bump or two in the road. I’m becoming more resilient as a result of failing often.

  1. You are identifying your weaknesses

If failing is good for nothing else, it exposes our weaknesses. This exposure can feel raw or we can choose to see it as an opportunity to work on these weaknesses so that they don’t continue to trip us up in the future. For people who never fail (and I don’t believe they exist), they live their life thinking they’re without flaws and then when something does go wrong it totally catches them off guard. Failing allows us to sharpen our swords each and every time, so we never fail in the same way twice.

  1. You are gaining experience

Whatever steps you took that led to failing were still steps of progress that helped you to gain experience. Maybe you didn’t win that race, but all those training miles that led you to that big moment are yours to keep. You’re stronger and better prepared to take on the challenge again in the future. The same applies for so many other aspects of life. While you didn’t win the “prize,” all the time and effort you put into getting to that point are pretty good consolations.

  1. You are avoiding something that simply wasn’t meant to be

For those who believe in fate (and I do), I appreciate the fact that failing means I’ve successfully avoided something that wasn’t meant to be. If we wished to never fail again, we would likely stumble into situations that prove to be more harm than good. In my career, failing by not winning a client or job has almost always been a blessing in disguise. Either they were a bad fit or another, bigger client came along shortly after that I would have had to turn down had I won that original client. We can apply this theory to relationships, travel, big purchases and more. Be happy that failing is life’s way of protecting you from a far worse fate.

How have you failed recently and how did you choose to make the best of situation? Share your personal experiences by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The Art of Storytelling: Why This Tactic is so Valuable for Your Business

storytelling

The influence of storytelling can be found in all aspects of our lives. First, think of how we are entertained. We watch television and movies, read books and surf social media. All of these components include storytelling in one way or another. Now think about how we mentally and emotionally connect with the world around us. We share our day’s events with our friends by recounting them through a story. We read news stories in print and on the web. And we reminisce about old memories through stories that evoke every emotion imaginable.

Do you now see why storytelling is such an essential – and powerful – means to communicating a message? It’s important to remember that storytelling is anything but new. Before civilization knew how to write, we told stories as our only way of learning and passing along knowledge to one another. In fact, a good story teller was among the most respected and revered people in a community!

Before I turn this into a history lesson, I’ll finish with one thought. While our label for the modern day “storyteller” has many names, the gifted storytellers among us still rise to the top as charismatic and effective communicators. They are deemed likeable, influential and wise. There are several things we can all learn from these storytellers and apply toward our own business communications. Here are 5 ways to incorporate storytelling into your public relations and marketing efforts:

  1. Give the sweet and condensed version

People don’t want to read the next great American novel when learning about your business. They would much prefer the Reader’s Digest version that highlights the most interesting, impressive and important details, while skimming over the things that are basic and obvious. Say what you need to say in the fewest words possible and carefully select those words to have the greatest impact. The “less is more” theory absolutely holds true to your marketing content. Rarely will people spend more than 7 seconds trying to understand your message if it is not clear. Keep it simple and keep their attention!

  1. Call upon personal experiences

Bring the characters of your story to life by sharing their personal experiences – both triumphs and failures. This adds that “human element” that allows your audience to connect with your story on a deeper level. Another strategy is to write the story in first person, allowing people to hear your voice and associate you as the storyteller – not some anonymous third party. Not only does this add credibility, but it shows you are involved with your business on a very personal level and your customers can expect this same level of personal attention.

  1. Focus on evoking one emotion

So often business owners want to describe their services with numbers, statistics and cold, hard facts. People don’t connect with – or remember – this approach. Instead, people remember only how you made them feel. Take control of the emotions you evoke with your storytelling by thinking strategically and planning your content appropriately. Most importantly, select just one emotion and focus the details of your story on this emotion. For some industries, humor is the most effective. For other industries it’s pity or fear. And the list goes on and on. Do your market research to see what your target audience receives well and use this as the theme that brings your entire story together.

  1. Don’t make yourself the hero

In many cases, you as the business owner will play a role in your story. You can certainly be a character, but avoid making yourself the hero. Instead, focus on the people or the lesson. Speak directly to your target audience with your story by making it conversational and asking rhetorical questions. Or focus on teaching them a valuable life lesson by sharing your struggles as well as your successes as inspiration for what they might achieve. While you might very well be the hero of your story, take a backstage role and let your audience bask in the lime light.

  1. Remember your audience

Finally and most importantly, remember to whom you are telling your story. Sure, you are speaking to people, but what kind of people? Get inside their minds and figure out what makes them tick. Maybe they are tech-minded, science geeks. Speak their language! Don’t try to appeal to them with romantic, flowery language. It won’t work. For any type of marketing, you need to understand your target audience. Apply this knowledge toward how you shape your story.

Now that you have 5 strategies to keep in mind when crafting your own business’s story – take it and run with it! Tell a story that sets you apart from your competition. Tell a story that makes you relatable and likeable. Tell a story that inspires people that they can also achieve success against all odds. Let’s continue this beautiful tradition of storytelling and respect it with stories that are worth remembering for a lifetime!

How have you benefitted from the art of storytelling in your own business or personal life? Share your experiences by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Life Lesson: 5 Ways to be Your Own Advocate

you-must-be-the-change-you-want-to-see-560x560

Throughout my life, I’ve learned a time or two – the hard way – that no one else is going to seize opportunities for you or voice your opinion. You must be your own advocate.

My most vivid memory of this life lesson was on the campaign trail in my former career. Our candidate was elected and the celebrations were coming to a close. Yet, one big question remained. What do I do next? Do I have a job? We were promised that, yes, we would all be placed somewhere within the new administration; however, days then weeks passed without any senior staff members sitting down with me to discuss my future.

It wasn’t until I started asking some of my peers that I found out that job conversations WERE taking place – for those who were bold enough to wait outside the office door and track down senior staff to MAKE them have this conversation. The people that controlled my fate were beyond busy and weren’t going to make time for me unless I demanded it. I had to become my own advocate if I wanted that job I was promised.

Things worked out. I was finally given the attention I demanded and got the job (I thought) I wanted. While I didn’t stay in this role long, it was a necessary turning point in my career and in my life. I was slapped in the face with the reality that if I didn’t muster up the courage to seize my own opportunities, they were surely going to pass me by.

I want to now share with you some of my hard-learned lessons on ways you can become your own advocate and seize life’s many opportunities – before someone else does.

  1. Build your personal brand

If you’re committed to becoming your own advocate, you must work to build your personal brand just as a publicist does for celebrities. This doesn’t mean securing guest appearances on the Today Show, but it does mean creating a valuable set of skills and qualities that can be marketed to potential clients or employers. Here is a great starter guide to help point you in the right direction. A strong personal brand is a valuable asset and wise investment of your time because it follows you wherever life may lead.

  1. Network internally and externally

For some reason we think of networking as only taking place at socials and mixers where everyone is wearing a stick-on name tag and shoving business cards down each other’s throats. This isn’t reality – and hardly even “networking” in its truest sense. Be aware of opportunities to network internally as well as externally.

No matter your current job, there is a valuable opportunity to build relationships with (and impress) your peers and higher-ups. This is an obvious opportunity if you want to move up within your own company, but it’s also valuable if you want to move on. You never know who other people know and the more people that can recommend your work, the more opportunities you will have at your finger tips.

  1. Actively seek opportunities

Life will rarely ever spoon feed you your next big break. You need to be out in the field – everyday – hunting down opportunities. The people I know who are their own best advocates are the people who get aggressive about knowing all the opportunities that are available to them at any time. They may not be in search of a new job, but they still keep their ear to the ground for anything interesting going on. By the time you realize you’re ready for a career change, you’re already behind the curve. Stay connected on social media, inquire within companies that interest you and keep an open conversation with your peers – who should also be on the hunt!

  1. Stay educated

I can’t stress enough the importance of becoming a lifelong learner. This makes you well-rounded, knowledgeable and interesting. It also keeps your eyes and ears wide open to an array of opportunities that people who are less informed would overlook. Staying well educated is like staying in shape. If you should be presented with the opportunity to run a 5k – or interview for a job – you are fit to jump right in with far less preparation and training than those who do not “stay in shape.”

  1. The right time is always now

Finally, develop a sense of urgency in your life. As your own advocate you cannot become complacent. This is one instance in life where patience will not serve you well. You cannot afford to wait around for the next opportunity to present itself; otherwise you will risk falling into the trap of waiting around forever. Opportunities are always around us. While not every opportunity is a large stepping stone to our dream career, those tiny pebbles do stack up. Get excited, get motivated and become urgent about your need to advocate for your best interests.

What are some ways in which you could benefit from being your own advocate? Share your experiences by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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7 Ways to Effectively Manage Busy People

busy people

Whether it’s a client, a boss, a friend or a spouse, we all have those one or two extremely busy people in our lives. I’m not talking about the “busy bodies,” but the truly busy, nose-to-the-grind-stone people who are booked almost all day every day with important tasks.

While their exhausting schedules challenge them, they also challenge us with how we can break through the noise to communicate with them. The good news is that it’s not completely impossible to get timely responses from these people. It simply takes managing them in a different way. Here are seven ways to help you effectively manage busy people and their busy schedules.

  1. Use clear and concise messaging

Getting answers from a busy person can be like pulling teeth. Even if they get the time to read your email or listen to your voicemail, they’re usually called away to the next task before they can provide you with the information you need.

Reduce the friction of this process by using clear and concise messaging. Your emails should be brief, to the point and should highlight exactly what you’re asking of them. Dates, times and location should also be bolded or underlined so they pop out. By cutting to the chase, you save them the time of reading through paragraphs to get to the point and increase the chance they’ll have enough time left over to shoot you a quick reply.

  1. Consolidate the number of messages you send

There may be times where you need 3 or 4 things from a busy person in a single day. This most commonly happens when it’s one of my clients. Rather than shooting off an email every time I have a question, I keep a running list for that day (or that week) and several hours before close of business, I consolidate these requests into a single, clear and concise message.

Think of it this way, the more messages you throw into an already inundated inbox makes it even less likely that you’ll hear back from them that day, week…or ever. Be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

  1. Schedule meetings far in advance – and confirm them

Finding a tiny time slot on a busy person’s calendar can create a game of email or phone tag that just never ends. For my busiest clients, we scheduled our reoccurring meetings for the quarter or even half of the year all at once. This got the meetings on both of our calendars nice and early and allowed us to plan around those dates. Expecting to find an open time in a busy person’s calendar just one week in advance is like walking in to the most exclusive salon in town and asking for an appointment that day. Maybe you’ll get lucky, but it’s far more likely you’ll get asked to come in 10 weeks.

Additionally, once you have these meetings set far in advance, be sure and follow-up several days before the meeting is set to take place. It’s likely the busy person has long since forgotten about this obligation. If they don’t have a secretary (or reliable calendar reminders) there is a good chance that you’ll get stood up.

  1. Provide briefings prior to events

For some of my busy clients, I schedule them to attend events such as fundraisers, public appearances, speaking engagements or media events as part of our communications and branding strategy. In these scenarios, it is also my responsibility to adequately prepare them for such events with details like directions, what to wear, other dignitaries in attendance, how long they’ll be speaking and what topics they should cover.

I place all of these details in a single-page template that serves as an event briefing and send them several days in advance to prepare my clients in mere minutes for the event. They love the efficiency of this process and the depth of the details I provide. As a busy person, your life is a whirlwind. If you can help them to feel more prepared and organized, you will quickly make a good impression.

  1. Anticipate their needs and questions and address them before they have to ask

When communicating with a busy person, you should strive to answer all of their questions before they have to ask. This eliminates back and forth communication that can drag on for days – even weeks.

For example, when setting up a meeting, don’t simply email them with “Can we schedule a time to meet?” This question produces so many more questions. Instead, be as descriptive (yet concise) as possible. Include why you want to meet and approximately how much time you’re asking of them. Also propose several dates, times and locations from which they may choose. This allows them to confirm all of these details for you within a single response, rather than through an unreasonably long email chain.

  1. Make meetings as convenient for them as possible

Simply put, come to them. In most cases, I think it’s fair to schedule a meeting somewhere mutually convenient for you and the person you’re meeting. But for a busy person (especially one who is paying me or may potentially pay me), I make it as convenient as possible for them. Why? Because every minute they spend commuting to a further location is less time they can dedicate to our meeting. I’d rather drive a little further and make the meeting last a little longer. It also shows you respect their time and it also provides them with a good first impression of how easy you will be to work with.

  1. Minimize their to-do list (take on as much as you can for them)

Finally, lessen their load as much as you can! For my busy clients, we will cover a laundry list of to-do’s during each meeting. While they’re perfectly capable of taking on many of these tasks, it’s not their time best spent. I take on as many of these tasks as I can; leaving them only with the smallest items that absolutely cannot be done without them (like asking a donor for a large amount of money). But even for these tasks, I still work to prepare and remind them so that it’s as easy as possible. I never mind taking on these tasks, because when they’re in my hands I know they’ll get done when I want them done. And with busy people…well, that’s just not usually the case.

How have you made dealing with very busy people easier? Share your experiences and insights by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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5 Ways to Build and Maintain a Useful Database of Contacts

stack of business cards

A business’s direct marketing and public relations efforts are only as strong as its database of contacts. Think of your own process for building and maintaining your database. Do you pay much attention to correcting outdated information or to entering new contacts in a timely fashion? If not, there are many opportunities to improve this right now!

Whether you use a robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system or are just getting started with a single Excel spreadsheet, here are 5 ways to build and maintain a useful database of contacts – and improve the effectiveness of your communications tactics as a result:

  1. Schedule a reoccurring time for database cleanup

Whether it’s you, an employee or an intern, someone should be designated to the task of database upkeep. The time to go in and clean up the incorrect and outdated information is not the day before you need to send out a mass mailing. People who manage their database in this manner are the people who find it to be an impossible and overwhelming task. Do a little bit of upkeep once per week or month by setting a reoccurring date on your calendar and sticking to it just as you would any other work task.

  1. Enter new information as soon as you receive it

Don’t wait for a stack of business cards to pile up on your desk before you sit down and enter this information into your database. Again, this fuels the feeling that this is an impossible and overwhelming task. Worse yet, you might accidentally toss these cards before you capture the information. Don’t risk the confusion and the loss of valuable data. Take 3 seconds to enter the information as soon as you’re at your computer rather than letting it build into an insurmountable task.

  1. Collect contact information everywhere you go

So what about building your contact list? One of the most basic and essential ways to do this is to find an opportunity to collect contact information at every event, especially events that you host. So many businesses overlook this opportunity!

Some effective ways I have seen this done is by collecting business cards at the registration desk and doing a drawing for little prizes as an added incentive to provide your contact information. If you’re selling a product, capture your customer’s contact information at check out. If this is online, the process can be made automatic. If it’s in-person, enter their information into your database as part of the process of ringing up the order. High-tech or low-tech, there’s no excuse to not ask every attendee or customer for their information.

  1. Be mindful of marriages, deaths and divorces

Even the most carefully crafted message will lose all effectiveness if you’re sending to an outdated list. As things change in your contacts’ lives, such as marriages, deaths and divorces, you should take care to update your database accordingly. For a large list, keeping up with all of these changes is a challenge. Start with the obvious. If it’s a local list, scan the newspaper regularly for notices of these life events. For a large list spanning far outside the local area, plan a yearly communication to your contacts that gives them an opportunity to correct any outdated information with a simple reply or completion of a form. This courtesy – and care for your contacts’ information – doesn’t go unnoticed!

  1. Include as much information as you have for a person

You need to accept the fact that it is impossible to have complete consistency among all contacts in your database. For some people, you may know everything from their birthday to their dog’s name. For others, you may only have a salutation and a last name. It’s important that you do not place too much value on consistency to the point that you build your database around the least common denominator. What I mean is, any tidbit of information you have for someone, create a column to enter it into your database. Even if they are the only person that fills that column, all information is valuable and you will surely regret discarding it at some point in the future when it could have been of value. For all the more effort it takes, include as much information as you can for every single person.

BONUS TIP: Know when to grow

As you continue to build a useful database of contacts, there will come periods of growing pains where you will need to upgrade your current process to something better suited to your needs. Back when you had less than 300 contacts, sure an Excel spreadsheet may have gotten the job done. At that point, you simply didn’t need a full CRM system like SalesForce or Zoho.

As soon as you are pained by the limitations within your current process, it’s time to immediately start the process of exploring other options available to you. The way you collect contact information should never prevent you from accurately tracking information and fully utilizing it. Don’t wait for the day it all comes crashing down; identify early and often when it’s time to grow!

How have you struggled or succeeded with maintaining your own database of contacts. Share your experience by commenting below!

 

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Life

 

My Personal Experience with Personal Fundraising: Tips to Help You Reach Your Goals

I am very grateful for my generous supporters who helped me exceed my personal fundraising goal--But I definitely had to work for it!

I am very grateful for my generous supporters who helped me exceed my personal fundraising goal–But I definitely had to work for it!

On Saturday, August 9th I took on a difficult challenge that pulled me outside my comfort zone. The physical endurance was only one aspect that made this experience unlike anything I’ve ever done. The personal fundraising for a charitable cause was completely new to me as well.

As I wrote in my blog explaining the GORUCK challenge, personally asking for donations isn’t something I’m comfortable with. I’m not used to not being in complete control of reaching my goals. Usually, it’s solely my hard work and efforts that earn me the prize.

From this whole experience, I walked away with quite a few new skills I never knew I had in me. One of which is my ability to set a fundraising goal – and exceed it. With the help of family and friends, I raised more than $1,200 for rare disease research. This was $950 more than I thought I was capable of receiving. What did I do to reach my goal? Here are some of the techniques I found to be most effective for personal fundraising:

Carefully choose your fundraising goal

In order to reach a goal, you have to first set one. I underestimated how important this number truly was for my own fundraising. If your goal is too small, donors may choose to give you a smaller amount than they would have it was twice that amount. Additionally, once you reach that goal, you have less power behind your plea for donations – even if you wish to continue to raise funds beyond it.

On the flip side, too lofty of a goal can turn donors off and make them feel like their small donation is merely a drop in the bucket. So where’s the middle ground? First think of the “safe” number that comes to mind, the one that you know you could reach with only about 60% effort. I would suggest setting your goal at twice this amount. This makes donors – at any level – feel like they can contribute to your success. It also holds you own feet to the fire to not get complacent or lazy with your fundraising.

Be strategic with who you ask

Simply put, people must be asked. If you don’t provide your family and friends with the opportunity to easily make a donation, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. And as I preach with any other type of communication, you must be strategic. If you start asking every single person in your social network (even ones who you have no real relationship with) you’re bound to come off looking spammy and desperate. Let’s be honest, only a small fraction of these people will actually donate.

Save your time and effort by narrowing down a core list of people who have your back and have supported you throughout other moments in life. These are the people that deserve a quality solicitation and will most certainly have the greatest return on your investment.

Make it direct and personal – don’t rely on social media!

Once you’ve narrowed down who you want to ask, you need to make it personal and genuine. Simply sharing a link to your fundraising page on Facebook may garner a few “likes” and words of support, but it does nothing to compel people to make a donation. Your network is able to easily hide between the virtual curtain and don’t feel any personal pressure to support you.

Combat this by writing an email, a letter or picking up the phone. Craft your message directly to that person and the relationship you have with them. While your core “ask” may be the same, add in a paragraph or two that shows this is not a mass message.

Be strategic with the timing of your asks

If you ask too far in advance, you are likely to get the response of “Sure, I’ll support you.” But then these people don’t feel the need to make the donation immediately and the task gets lost among their more pressing to-dos.

You should make your first ask about one month in advance of your fundraising deadline. You can even use this as the reason why you’re contacting them at this time. This also allows enough time to go back and follow-up with these same people in a few weeks, if you don’t hear back.

Ask for specific amounts

Asking someone for a certain level of donation can be tricky, but it is also effective for closing the deal. This amount will vary for every person on your contact list. Consider their personal financial situation, how well they know you and whether they have supported you at a certain level in the past. Together, these pieces of information will direct you toward the appropriate amount to ask for.

Why this is so effective is because it can compel people who have the means to actually give at that level. Otherwise, they may make a smaller donation than you were expecting. Additionally, for contacts who have limited means, you can encourage them to donate by asking for just $5. The direct ask lets them know that this amount is what you expect and what you’d appreciate; it’s not too small to make a difference.

Give away something of value in return

Even though this is a charitable donation and the “warm fuzzies” should be a good enough reward, people still like to feel as though they’re getting something for their contributions. This does not have to be monetary or material. I wrote a blog on why I was fundraising and this allowed me to initiate the conversation again with my networks. Moreover, it gave deeper insight into why this cause is so important to me.

People want to know that this is something you truly believe in, that it’s something you are committed to and something that’s unique from anything else you may have asked them to support in the past. Share this by writing a story, hand making an item to raffle off or giving a small token of appreciation to every donor.

Stay organized

Remember that list of contacts I told you to put together? Do yourself a favor and put that in a spreadsheet. You can then track who you contacted, for what amount, on what date and note any correspondence you’ve had with them. This will show you the appropriate time to initiate a follow-up or another means of communication. This will also be a big help when it comes time to thank your donors.

Follow-up, follow-up!     

Use that organized spreadsheet as a tool to carefully time when and how you will follow-up with each person you contacted. Sending an email with no response and failing to follow-up is your own missed opportunity – not your donors’. Much like hiding behind the virtual curtain of social media, people can easily brush off a single email or voice mail solicitation. Sending one or more personalized follow-up messages makes it harder to ignore. A no is as good as a yes, and that’s all you’re asking for. If someone can’t donate, that’s fine. Ask until you receive a response either way (then track it on your spreadsheet).

Thank donors immediately AND post-event

Finally, show gratitude! Once you’re alerted that someone made a donation, immediately thank them with a quick message. Then, hand write (yes with a pen and paper) your formal, post-event thank you notes. I’m a big fan of including a picture from the event along with a personal message to each donor. This is such a critical step for completing the fundraising process. You may have already gotten what you wanted out of your donors, but remember that for any future fundraising efforts, they will likely be the same network you come back to and will remember this experience!

P.S…my fundraising page is still live and open for donations! It would be a missed opportunity not to ask, right?

Have you had the experience of personally fundraising for a charity or cause? Share what you found to work – and not work by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Life

 

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