The tiny shift that helps you increase Major Gifts

During a recent two day fundraising project for a charity in Peterborough, I met two taxi drivers. On the Tuesday the driver who took me to the charity’s venue was friendly and drove perfectly well. But when I made the same journey the next day, though less chatty, the driver was more successful because he applied what I call the Wealthy Cab Driver’s secret.

What do you think he did?

As I paid my fare at the end of the journey, unlike the first driver, he asked whether I needed a lift back to the station that afternoon.

As it happened, I did. In fact I was pleased to not have to worry about booking a cab later. In that moment, with no extra effort, he doubled the income he would make from me. I have found that obvious though this now sounds, fewer than 1 in 10 drivers ask this question. Why not? It surely would not be hard to do.

Because he thought his job was simply to drive people from A to B. But the second driver understood that his job is not only to drive people around. Instead it’s to book fares by anticipating and meeting passengers’ needs. When you know that this is your job, being more proactive becomes obvious and almost automatic.

So how you see your role makes a big difference to how you will behave and the results you enjoy. Even if only 1 in 5 passengers say yes, the habit of politely asking this question will increase his annual earnings by 20%.

How does this idea help you dramatically increase your fundraising income?

Here it comes: If you are (or manage) someone whose job is to increase income through major gifts or corporate partnerships, what job do you think you are doing?

On the Major Gifts Mastery Programme, I help fundraisers see their role first and foremost as about booking ‘test drives’. I explain that high performing BMW salespeople do not focus on selling cars, they focus on encouraging people to take test drives. Can you see how this different focus makes for a far easier job? And of course, the more test drives you book, the more car sales will go up anyway.

In the same way, I help fundraisers focus more energy on the charity equivalent of test drives – meeting donors / trusts/ partners for an informal tea / coffee or maximising the numbers that attend your ‘warm up’ event. Admittedly there are still some strategies to know about how you persuade more donors to come and spend time with you, and of course on the Programme we can help you improve those tactics. But most of them are not that hard, just as the Wealthy Cab Driver’s technique is very simple in principle.

The more important question is, do you see your role in such a way that you will actually follow through on those strategies?

Everyone on the Mastery Programme manages to spend more time with wealthy donors, because where focus goes, energy flows, and results show. Lois Wolffe from the National Library of Scotland even booked 56 meetings with wealthy donors in a single month.

Of course there are other tasks you need to do as well. The good news is, when you see your job this way and take action to book more test drives, you instinctively know you are moving in the right direction and your confidence soars, which helps you blast through those other tasks as well.