I’m sure it’s a familiar scene to many. The board or the boss decides you need to ramp up sponsorship, corporate partners, donations, bequests, etc etc (insert magic pocket of money here). They set a timeline, generally a few months because how hard can it be – don’t you just get on the phone or send out a letter and everyone puts their hands up to support you, and then they either do one of two things.
1. They completely forget about it until the deadline comes around and then express disappointment in you, your team, the economy, your supporters and the world in general or
2. They can’t keep out of it and want to sign off every communication, change things and tell you it won’t work that way because that’s not the message of the organisation, that people won’t respond to your approach because it’s been done before and essentially they just want a reprise of what’s been done before because we don’t want to upset (insert one or two donors or friends of the organisation who have barely given but know everything).
Clearly I exaggerate (well hopefully I do, otherwise I feel sorry for you and your teams!) but often we are faced with as many challenges internally, if not more, than we are externally in the market. And it’s hard because often these challenges come from senior executives who are used to being right and subtly can change things that will have a damaging flow on effect in your ability to raise money and support.
So how do you overcome this?
You need to allocate as much time and effort into your campaign for your internal buy in as you do in researching and tailoring your message for your prospective sponsors and donors. If your board is not on board, then you’re already five steps behind. Give them all the facts, send them examples of similar campaigns, build up a file of articles that you can pull out when needed to reassure them that you’re not going off on some random tangent.
Identify key people in your organisation and get them excited about your campaign, get them talking about what you’re trying to achieve, make sure they understand the science of what you’re doing. Take all that wonderful networking you do on the outside and replicate that with the people who work at the service end of your charity or not-for-profit and they will advocate upwards and outwards. As this momentum builds, so will the swell of support and confidence.