Practice to Perform

There is a saying in athletics: How you practice is how you play at gametime.

I absolutely believe this to be true.

And it applies to far more than athletics.

When it comes to fundraising, especially capital campaign fundraising, practice and preparation are essential.

If you have not prepared your strategy for a campaign call, getting to the actual solicitation during the visit may prove difficult. You might have a lovely conversation but leave unsatisfied because you did not actually present the investment opportunity. Chances are you just wasted your one chance to make the ask and that is worse than hearing no.

Solicitation meetings are rarely linear, but having a linear strategy helps you stay on course.

We use a very simple tool called a call strategy worksheet. It helps you think through the key steps of the solicitation before you get there. If you have a calling partner, we recommend putting the initials in the circles below, so you know who is responsible for what part of the conversation. Even if you journey down a rabbit hole with your prospect, you know who is responsible for getting you to the next step.

Once you have prepared, the next step is to practice. Few people like to role play, but I am convinced that if we do not practice, the conversation we imagine in our heads and the one that actually happens will be very different. So, make the time the morning of the call with a major prospect to rehearse. Better yet, practice the part where you ask them to invest $2.5 million in your project over and over. The more you practice, the easier the words will come out of your mouth when it is time to ask.

If you have ever been in a fundraising training session with me, you have heard me celebrate Bluetooth in the car. I love Bluetooth because I can practice my own solicitations in the car, and no one thinks I am crazy for talking to myself. They think I am using Bluetooth. 😊 I invite you to practice in your car too. Do you have other ways or places you practice? Share! I would love to hear about them.

Capital campaigns are transformational for your organization. Campaigns are launched to fund a special vision, a unique opportunity to expand your impact, or a must have addition to your campus or program. Campaigns are a big deal. You should prepare and practice like it is a big deal. My colleague Sam likes to quote Taylor Swift, but in this case, Eminem is the best choice. In a capital campaign solicitation most of the time, “You only get one shot.” Do not miss your opportunity because you did not put in the practice.

Shannon Williams is the Managing Director of Armstrong McGuire and leads the team of Senior Advisors who help our clients with organizational development, leadership development, and fundraising. Watch her recent video on capital campaigns.

Read about Rumple Memorial's approach to realizing their new campus master plan through navigating a successful capital campaign despite their initial uncertainty.

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