As we enter the home stretch of our 100 days, I’m relearning an important skill: leads generation.

Odd as it is, this is a skill I seem to keep forgetting. I guess I just get comfortable communicating with existing donors and forget the need to keep finding new ones.

Fortunately, my executive coach, Freddie Ray is an expert with leads generation. She had to be to be a Fox VP of Advertising for close to 20 years!

She has me in the midst of a 2-week project to increase my skill in generating leads.

First, let’s define the term “leads.” The National Mail Order Association defines leads as

“Names and addresses of individuals who have taken a positive action to indicate genuine interest in a given type of offer.”

When Freddie asked me what I was currently doing to generate leads, my list included things like direct mail, websites, brochures, conversations, participation in community groups, articles in the paper, event posters around town, etc.

She pointed out that all of those are passive activities. I knew that. And they are necessary to a point. Somehow, I allowed myself to think that they help me raise money. The closest thing to generating contact information “of individuals who have taken positive action to indicate genuine interest” is the direct mail.

To generate leads, Freddie said my action must have purpose. It’s not just showing up at a social networking time. It’s showing up with the focus of talking to certain people. It’s not just making the gift giving options available on the website. It’s me asking others to take specific action. And it’s even better if I’m giving them something in return. (See the Creating Donor Evangelists announcement below for an example of this.)

Here are the steps she walked me through:

  1. First, I needed to figure out exactly what I was asking them to do. What action did I want them to take?
  2. I needed to look at how much time I was already spending on that work.
  3. I then decided how much time I’d commit to leads generation.
  4. Define leads generating activities. For me, this is as simple as calling donors to thank them, following up direct mail with a phone call, preparing a grant request, visiting new donors. And habitually asking, “Who else do you think would support what we’re doing?”
  5. I need to act on it out. (One of my mentors keeps telling me that Peter Drucker said, “All great ideas ultimately degenerate into hard work.”)

So far, I’ve successfully hit my targets of time. I’m not seeing HUGE changes in anyone but myself. My mind is incredibly focused. I’m amazed at how much time I had been spending on the non-essential tasks of my work. No one will give me a gift if I simply wait for them. I need to go out and take action.

This is much more rewarding. I can tangibly see that I am spending the 80% of my time on the most important 20% of my work. (See my blog post on the Pareto Principle for more on this.)

Between now and May 22, why don’t you go through the same four steps?

  1. Figure out exactly what you’re asking people to do. This isn’t as easy as it may appear. Is it increasing your donor base? Landing major gifts? Increasing planned giving commitments? All of the above? Define each one on paper. And be sure to only one in mind when you are interacting with people.
  2. Look over your calendar to determine how much time you’re committing to your job.
  3. Commit, in writing, to how much time you’ll spend in leads generation activities.
  4. List a bunch of action-oriented leads generating activities. Even transforming some activities you’re already doing by now doing them with a leads generation focus.
  5. Do it.

And please let me know how it works out for you!!

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