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This week I learned an old lesson again about the difference a named contact can make. I was working on a feasibility study for a major appeal and had interviewed a range of people, including one very well known and wealthy lady.
“You really must speak to X” she told me. “He will be very interested in this”. X it turns out, is the CEO of a well known company that has an interest in the area of work the appeal will address and a track record of supporting such causes.
Now I know from experience how hard it can be to get to speak to such people and that a cold call or enquiry usually gets nowhere. However, with a warm contact the chances are always better. My conversation with the CEO proved useful for the charity and for the study and may lead to a partnership in due course.
If I ever needed a reminder of the value of contact mapping and door openers, this was it. So if you have been plugging away at your trustees and high level supporters about who they know, don’t give up. Just one good introduction can make all the difference. Whether in the field of corporates, trusts or wealthy individuals, one strong name can help unlock a whole list of people to help your cause.
Charities often tell me they don’t know anyone of influence or affluence, but this is rarely true, providing you go about the contact mapping in the right way. Don’t ask them who they know. Give them with a list of the people you are interested in and ask them to say which ones they know well, know a little or have met. This works much better and often leads to some surprising results.
I find that national charities, unsurprisingly, usually have better contact networks, but it can also work for local charities, as my recent experience again underlined. So don’t accept the line that “we don’t know anyone”. Everyone knows someone of potential help. It’s usually just a matter of tracking them down.
I’ll finish with an anecdote. Many years ago, we were helping a housing association plan and run a capital appeal to create a youth foyer. For months, they insisted that they knew nobody of any significance until, six months in to the appeal, the PA to the CEO “suddenly remembered” that she had once been engaged to David (now Lord) Putnam, who when approached turned out to be very supportive and helped to complete the appeal.
So, what’s in a name then? Quite a lot in fact. It can make all the difference between success and failure, so make sure you are tracking down all the best names you can reach – and keep at it. You just might flush out a real game changer...
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