How you can become your organisation’s competitive edge

Written by
Bernard Ross & Clare Segal
Added
June 03, 2013

Book review

‘Inspired by the lessons from this book, I wish I could rewind and replay every one of the solicitations and board meetings I participated in last year.’

The Influential Fundraiser: Using the psychology of persuasion to achieve outstanding results by Bernard Ross and Clare Segal.

Reviewed for SOFII by Kimberley MacKenzie.

When I heard about the idea of using psychology to raise more money I couldn’t imagine how that would fit into my previous learning about the pyramids, loops and ladders that are so familiar to many of us fundraisers. The fact is – it doesn’t. Bernard Ross and Clare Segal are revolutionising fundraising with their new book The Influential Fundraiser. Forget what you know or thought you knew about this business. You won’t find any gift charts or moves management tables – no scripted asks either. Ross and Segal have outlined in detail the steps required not only to raise more money, but to also win over your board or staff. This book will even help to get your teenagers to clean their rooms!

The practical advice laid out in this book will help you to:

  • Understand what motivates your donors.
  • Immediately establish and build rapport.
  • Present your proposal in a way that is tailored to the psychology of the person you are trying to influence.
  • Take systematic steps to make sure you are prepared and know the desired outcome.
  • Understand and respond appropriately to your donors point of view.
  • Know which of the nine ‘nos’ actually means no. (Hint: there is only one.)

With so much information, you expect the book to read like a textbook. That’s not the case. It is so well written that the words fall off the page. (I actually read it from the beginning to the end in one sitting.) Wonderful examples of their ideas in action are interwoven throughout to help you to see how the exercises can be applied in the real world. For example, the story of a priest from Bolivia who used the metaphor of an actual brick to make his case and explain his vision. While raising money to help children learn to read, the priest tells the story of a young boy who tossed aside an encyclopaedia because he couldn’t read and a book wouldn’t help him build a house. Of course a full proposal is used eventually, ‘But,’ says Father Luis, ‘donors really get it when I show them the brick!’

When you have finished reading this review click on the brick to read this engaging story.

The authors outline how the five cogs of passion, proposal, preparation, persuasion and persistence work together and explain how this has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for clients of the Management Centre around the world. Now Ross and Segal are sharing their secrets of success so that more fundraisers and causes will benefit.

I do have one concern about this fundraising approach. I would have liked to see more about maintaining our integrity as fundraisers while using this powerful psychology to ask for gifts. The book quickly points out this dilemma at the beginning, stating that, ‘If you feel like you are manipulating someone, then you probably are. So stop whatever you are doing.’ At a time when we need to be ever more accountable and ever more ethical, I’d like to better understand that grey area between being an extraordinary fundraiser and being a mediocre sales person or, worse, a con artist. These skills of persuasion will need to be used very carefully.

Fortunately there is also website for just such a discussion http://www.influentialfundraiser.com. We will soon see if, as promised at the end of the book, this site offers an opportunity for dialogue or more information. I think we need to talk more about the ethics involved in fundraising using the psychology of persuasion.

In the meantime, inspired by the lessons from this book, I wish I could rewind and replay every one of the solicitations and board meetings I participated in last year. I will no doubt keep this book very close. While the concepts are quite simple to set out they won’t be all that easy to learn and apply. It will take time and practice for me to become the influential fundraiser I need to be in order to have that ‘competitive edge’. Come to think about it… forget what you just read, don’t buy the book, don’t listen to me and don’t visit the website… the less people who read it, the better. After all, we can’t all be highly influential and successful fundraisers! But if you need to buy the book to help you get your children to clean their rooms, that would be just fine.

© Kimberley MacKenzie 2009.

​Bernard Ross & Clare Segal

Bernard Ross is an expert in strategic thinking, organisational change and personal effectiveness. He works internationally in Europe, USA, Africa and South America. He has worked with a wide range of not-for-profit organisations over 25 years including the British Red Cross, Amnesty International, Greenpeace International, UNICEF, Oxfam and the British Film Institute.

Clare Segal is an accredited MBTI coach. She works extensively in Europe and the USA specialising in presentation, influence and communication skills. Clare has been responsible for developing the cases for a number of national and international fundraising campaigns including NSPCC, UNICEF & Communitas Brazil. She was also a lead figure in developing the emergency response to the London Bombings of 7/7.

About Kimberley MacKenzie

Kimberley MacKenzie, Director of development at Ontario Nature

About the author: Bernard Ross & Clare Segal

Bernard Ross & Clare Segal

Bernard Ross is an expert in strategic thinking, organisational change and personal effectiveness. He works internationally in Europe, USA, Africa and South America. He has worked with a wide range of not-for-profit organisations over 25 years including the British Red Cross, Amnesty International, Greenpeace International, UNICEF, Oxfam and the British Film Institute. 

Clare Segal is an accredited MBTI coach. She works extensively in Europe and the USA specialising in presentation, influence and communication skills. Clare has been responsible for developing the cases for a number of national and international fundraising campaigns including NSPCC, UNICEF & Communitas Brazil. She was also a lead figure in developing the emergency response to the London Bombings of 7/7.

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