Focus is power

Published by Rob Woods on

‘Two weeks of my time, completely wasted!’ The frustration was evident on the face of the corporate fundraiser. She had been telling me she had known from the start that the partnership she’d been told to pitch for could never work, that it made absolutely no sense strategically. And yet she’d gone along with the wild goose chase because of pressure internally.

Most corporate fundraisers I’ve spoken to have at some point in gone along with pursuing a company based on the whim of colleague who has not been thinking strategically, but is senior. Sometimes we are right to change our agreed plan when a great opportunity presents itself. But the truth is, 9 times out of 10 our instincts are right – the partnership is either un-winnable or it won’t generate much value.

What can we do about this? Well there is something we can do to radically reduce the chances that this waste of time will happen.

dreamstime_xs_22263379How to find the companies that add massive value

Does your charity have an agreed corporate partnerships strategy? By all means this could be very detailed, but at its simplest, there is enormous power in having an agreed list of the ten companies which it would make most sense to build partnerships with over the long-term.

The key word in the last sentence was ‘agreed’. Because if you have a current document which you involved senior figures like your Director or CEO in choosing, they are far more likely to think strategically about which companies it does and doesn’t make sense to apply to. So the next time someone suggests you spend time on something that is strategically foolish, you will have senior allies who are now vested in supporting the pragmatic decision that needs to be made.

Get clear what you’re aiming for – The Dream Ten Partners list.

In his short film, The View from Truffoult, advertising legend David Ogilvy reveals that when he first formed his company, he wrote down the names of the ten massive accounts he was determined to win. Over the years, every single company became his client, bringing their enormous advertising budgets with them.

dreamstime_s_32426417Clearly, knowing what you’re aiming for makes it far more likely you will make it happen. Why is this? Because clarity is power. In 2003, aged 9, British diver Tom Daley drew a picture of himself winning an Olympic medal, 9 years in the future. Fast forward to London 2012 and he fulfilled this prediction. Being certain of what he wanted, however difficult, can only have helped him focus his resources on achieving it.

Do you think that for 9 year old Tom to go on to win an Olympic medal is easier or harder than it would be for you to build a strategically smart, multi-year partnership worth seven figures for your charity?

Many fundraisers tell me they know which companies they want to work for, but upon closer inspection a) it is not written down, b) the team and senior colleagues don’t know what it is and c) it was not thought through in a calm, strategic way.

A major barrier to doing this is the myth that it is extremely difficult to work out, and requires days of in depth analysis by an expensive agency.

In fact, the process is possible in just a couple of hours. A manager on my Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme recently fed back what happened when she sat down with her team and brainstormed who should be on their list.

Before they did the process, there were more than 125 companies on their prospect list. Can you imagine how hard it had been to take bold, creative action to build relationships with those 125 companies?

Within two days of radically reducing the list, they had secured appointments with three key companies. And, importantly, she told us how energising the team had found the process, because it was freeing them of all the clutter.

Discover the less obvious but ideal partners

The key thing we’ve learned is that not all of the companies that end up on the Dream Ten Partners list had been obvious before doing the process. One of our clients ended up securing logistical support worth over £100,000 in delivering their resources to schools. The particular FMCG company that is adding all this value would never have been on their list if the fundraisers had not used the process that identified this internal need and therefore the company best able to solve it.

How to win game-changing corporate partnerships

The workshop I am doing at International Fundraising Congress with Ben Swart from NSPCC, is called How to win multi-million, multi-year partnerships. We are excited to be able to share our system for how to quickly work out your Dream Ten Partners, as well as four little known strategies to help these companies want to meet you, and five ways to use the psychology of persuasion when you want these companies to eagerly say YES.

IFC-2015-logoThis post is part of the 2015 IFC Series. 101fundraising is proud to be the blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress for the 4th year!


Rob Woods

Rob Woods (@woods_rob) is an author and award-winning fundraising trainer. Initially at the NSPCC, he has been giving courses that lift financial results for eleven years. He is a tutor for the IOF Academy in the UK and his clients include CRUK, Oxfam, Tate and UNICEF. If you found this blog useful you can check out Rob’s courses, blogs and more free resources, including How to influence supporters when you speak - the six common mistakes and how to avoid them at www.brightspotfundraising.co.uk


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