Perhaps you haven’t thought about it this way, but on a functional level you are selling a product. You are giving donors something in exchange for their money. Often, when I say this, I will get some push back like, “Hey, don’t use the word ‘selling’! It’s offensive. We’re not selling anything!”
Well, yes you are. OK, if you don’t like “selling”, how about “offering something in exchange for their money”? Or “transacting”? You are engaged in a transaction where certain needs and wants of the donor are being satisfied by giving you the money you need to do stuff.
The fact is that donors are not giving you money for the fun of it. There IS an expectation that something will come back to them – something of greater value. And when you fail at this point in the transaction, you have miserably failed in the relationship. Something does need to come back to the donor. But what is it?
Let’s get to the answer by exploring what is going out to the donor. It is a product – in the non-profit world we call it program. We are offering a set of solutions and results in an area the donor cares about. That, very simply stated, is the transaction. The donor is saying, “You promise to provide these solutions and get these results in this area and I will give you money to do it.” Period.
Now, where this whole transaction falls apart is right at the beginning before the promise even gets out of the gate. It falls apart because the MGO does not understand the program. Jeff and I believe that most MGO’s don’t know their program – or they don’t know it as they should. This is an amazing fact. It is also very tragic.
Imagine a sales person in a commercial or retail setting trying to sell you something. Let’s say you go into an Apple store and want a full explanation on the features and benefits of the new MacBook Air PC or the iPhone 5. You want to know how those items stack up against other similar products in the store as well as the competitive offers in the marketplace.
Now imagine that the sales person just cannot answer your questions. They just don’t know! What would you think? You would probably say, “That idiot didn’t know anything about the product! It was a waste of time being in there! It was so frustrating!” And you would leave the store with a very negative opinion of the person, the store and the product. But, more importantly, you would have left the store without buying! And THAT, my friend, is the killer. No transaction.
It is this very scenario that Jeff and I run across almost on a weekly basis with MGO’s. They do not know the product. And it’s no wonder they are not successful in their jobs. If you don’t know the product you cannot succeed in creating and causing a transaction with a donor! It will not happen.
So, take a look at this subject and ask yourself the following questions. Do YOU know:
- The budget of the organization you work for? I can’t tell you how many times I have asked an MGO this simple question: “So, what is your organization’s budget?” They answer: “Hmmm. I don’t know.” And I want to yell at him, “WHAT? You don’t even know the budget of this organization? What is wrong with you? This is the most basic piece of information you should have!” This is just amazing to me. Do you know your organization’s budget? If not, find out. Get together with finance and know it and understand it. There is no excuse not to do this. (By the way, I won’t yell – I will just feel like yelling.)
- The categories in that budget? Besides administrative and operational categories, do you know the program categories of your organization’s budget? If not, get on it. You need to be intimately familiar with what your organization DOES at the highest level. You also need to know the program emphasis. Where do you spend the most money? Why do you? There are choices behind those budget numbers. What are those choices? Do you understand them? Can you explain them to a donor?
- The individual programs in each category? Below each major category of work sits a list of individual programs. Do you know what they are? Do you know what they are trying to accomplish? You know what to do if you don’t know this info.
- The needs addressed in each program? Are you in touch with and can you describe to a donor the needs that are addressed by each program? This is also critical, as Jeff and I have said many times before in this blog. You must understand the underlying needs each program is dealing with. This information is one key success factor in securing funding from donors. They need to know a real need is being taken care of.
- The results/outcomes the programs are getting? Can you say that the donors’ giving is making a difference? You told them about the need that is being addressed. Now can you tell them that it actually works? You can’t? Oops! Now you have a problem. So you can wax eloquently on the front side of the transaction – the part where you are trying to GET the money. But when it comes to knowing if it actually does any good, you are silent and ignorant. This will NOT work. And you know it won’t.
Please listen to me very carefully. You NEED to know this stuff. You just need to know it. If you don’t, you will not succeed. So if, on any of the questions above, you said you do not know the information, please take time to go and figure it out.
It will make a huge difference in how you do your job and, more importantly, it will honor your donor who is counting on you to lead the way in this great journey of helping others.