“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”

November 12, 2015

This superb quote is from Wayne Gretzky, one of the greatest players ever to hit a puck.  He was the holder of all kinds of scoring records, so he knows what he’s talking about.

And it underlines our philosophy at Graham-Pelton that fundraising is a doing business.  Like all great work, it takes time to plan, coordinate, strategise – to synthesise the team and get all the people working in harmony.  But when you are in front of goal, the only way you will score is to strike.

So what does this mean for fundraising?  It certainly doesn’t mean taking wild 25 yard shots in the hope that some will hit the mark.

It means that endless planning will not bring you a major gift.  You must know your plan and strategy, and then you have to execute it.  There is no substitute for action.  Of course you must know the person you are speaking to – what their hopes and aspirations are.  Have you listened enough to understand what is most important to them, and do you know what would persuade them to make a really transformational gift?  One of the ways to find out is to…ask.

Ask skilfully, with acknowledgement that this is part of understanding what they are most interested in, and what your organisation and this donor could do in partnership.  But if you don’t ask, you won’t get.  Simple.

Wayne Gretzky also famously said, “I move to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”  All of the greatest fundraisers I have worked with had the ability to think clearly, in an instinctive and non-linear fashion.  They made links that weren’t obvious to others, and took brave decisions.  They kept the conversations moving, and were in the right place when the puck came their way.

Getting more meetings booked helps you to practise your asking skills, and to put you in the right place for when the really important conversations happen – for when preparation meets opportunity.  To look at Gretzky’s quote another way, you can’t score if you’re not on the field of play.  There is also a law of diminishing returns by the way. Our research shows that targets of much above 120 meetings per year don’t increase the amount raised, and in fact may have the opposite effect.

Many major gifts professionals are well below 120 meetings per year though.

Like great strikers, we are judged on very clear targets.  We could be doing many of the right things, but if we are not raising money, we are not fulfilling the key purpose of our roles.  We are there to transform and develop the great institutions we work for.  It is a privilege.

How many opportunities are you missing because you aren’t taking the field?

-Shaun Horan, Managing Director

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