Art or Science?

A friend once asked me if fundraising was an art or science.  I have always thought that it had a scientific component but that at base it was common sense raised to an art.  Well, the same friend sent me a great little book recently, “Show Your Work! 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered”. In the note he included he wrote, “Read this and see if you get any ideas about the “art” in fundraising”.

First of all, the book is six inches square with terrific illustrations. The Chapter headings include: You Don’t Have To be A Genius, Think Process, Not Product, Tell Good Stories, and Learn To take A Punch.   As I was reading it I came across something we all need to think about:

“Every client presentation, every personal essay, every cover letter, every fundraising request –  they’re all pitches.  They’re stories with the ending chopped off.  A good pitch is set up in three acts: The first act is the past, the second act is the present, and the third act is the future.  The first act is where you have been – what you want, how you came to want it, and what you have done so far to get it. The second act is where you are now in your work and how you have worked hard and used up most of your resources. The third act is where you are going, and how exactly the person you’re pitching can help you get there.  Like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, this story shape effectively turns your listener into the hero who gets to decide how it ends.” 

We have all attended seminars on Major Gift calls where we are told that every call needs an “Opener” and a “Closer”.  The “Opener” is often a Board member or volunteer who knows the prospect well, can establish the climate of the visit, knows the Case Statement, and can speak passionately and motivate the prospect.  The “Closer” can ask for the gift using an exact number and, like the “Opener”, has been trained for every eventual question the prospect can ask.  Here is where the idea of the prospect has to be turned into the “Hero”.   While hesitating to disagree with Mr. Kleon, I think the better outcome is that the “Hero” becomes part of the future and becomes a partner in the important work ahead – work that changes lives.

Thinking through all your personal contacts in light of Mr. Kleon’s ideas can create great strategies for you.   I have always believed in three person call teams.  One for each act, better conversation flow, and, most importantly, a team approach that shows confidence, commitment, and when necessary, keeps the flow of the visit.