Been gone a while. Long story short…I’m back. And the winner is…..
1. Practice your speech
I’m sure Seth Meyers practiced in the mirror. Don’t stress out. And don’t plan a ‘speech’. Instead, do spend a little time thinking about your choice of words, what you want to share, what you know they care about and will want to hear. Still stuck? Here are some of my favorite conversation starters.
2. Wear the right thing
No, really. Visiting a bank executive? Dress up a bit. Going to see a 7th generation farmer? Black-tie will freak him out. Your clothes, like your demeanor, can help people feel comfortable with you. And that’s the goal – help them relax and have a candid conversation.
3. Respect your time allotment
Unless you have the social awareness of a distracted dog (squirrel!), you should be able to read the social cues of those with whom you’re speaking. Don’t run over. They don’t have the ‘hurry up’ music to take you off the stage. Also, shoot for a goal of having them speak 70% of the time. It’s about them, not you!
4. Compliment other nominees and winners
No one likes a snob. Putting down other causes makes you look bad and gives fundraising – and your organization – a bad rap. Wow. I sound angry. I’m not. Unless I think about this too much. Grr. Instead, understand their other giving commitments and interests. It will help you paint a full picture of their intent, passion and the mark they hope to make on the planet.
5. You never know when your time may come…back
This summer I went on a quick West Wing binge, then last night, I saw CJ Craig (a.k.a. Allison Janney) accept an Emmy for ‘Mom’…several years later. If you get a ‘no’, try to understand (without hassling) the ‘why’. Is the person simply not interested in the cause you’re representing? Do they not believe you’re making the most/best difference? Do they have medical bills and are facing 3 kids heading towards college and don’t have the mental or financial capacity to do anything at the moment? Knowing ‘why’ will help guide your future relationship and whether you should politely keep them posted on progress, circle back in a few years, or connect them to another cause that might be of more interest.
6. It’s hard to be different. But done right, it can be appropriate and classy.
We often forget that the people with whom we’re speaking about philanthropy – hear from countless friend, nonprofit leaders and other who are sharing about their causes and their needs. If you go in with a scripted agenda, you’ll come across no different than the others. If you truly care about the person, want to know them better and want what’s best for them, their family and their philanthropy – you’ll stand out – and you’ll be better for it.
7. Confidence and authenticity win…every time.
If you watch the winners’ speeches, some are rambling. Others are goofy. Some are well-prepared. Others are sporadic. The best are authentic and given with confidence. They believe in what they’re saying. They aren’t scripted or over-prepared. They enjoy sharing – because they love what they do. Model that – and you’ll do great.