Most Powerful Statements: Cass Wheeler

Yesterday was the first part of this month’s Featured Fundraiser Cass Wheeler.  Here is part two of that post.

What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?

Being a good fund raiser requires a sales and a management mentality. Every call on a donor is a sales call. Recruiting volunteers requires a sales mentality as well. What appeals do you use to get the results you want? In most instances, staff are also guiding and managing a group of volunteers toward to defined goal so leadership and management skills are also critical. Maintaining a positive “can do attitude” is critical because you often experience many “no’s” before you get to the “yes’s” but you can’t let it get you down and you have to be a role model for the volunteers you work with. You also have to have a thick skin and you have to be assertive. Don ‘t assume that someone either won’t give or won’t give at a certain level. You cannot be in the business of making decisions for other people. Only they can do that.

What are one or two of the most powerful statements you’ve ever made?

I’ll give you two not necessarily in order of importance. First is “What would it take to do x, y or z?” This question re-frames an issue. I remember years ago when our Walk was raising $12 million, I asked the question of our Walk Team: “What would it take to raise $30 million?” At first the responses were all the reasons it couldn’t be done. I told them that I knew it wasn’t impossible and that there must be some way and asked that with no constraints they go back a develop a plan. The team not only came back with a plan but with a slogan—30 in 30. $30 million in 30 months. And it was accomplished in 18 months. As we neared that achievement my next questions was “What would it take to raise $100 million and that was accomplished before I stepped down as CEO.

The second question is to drive candor in your organization. The statement is “Here is what I think and here is how I arrived at that conclusion, please tell me what I’m not seeing or understanding?” This is an empowering statement. You aren’t playing games, you are stating what you think. You are also telling everyone why you think that so they understand your thought processes. But you are also inviting other points of view and encouraging more discussion and not ending discussion. This is particularly important for leaders. These kind of statements will not only improve the quality of your decision making it will increase the organizational commitment to whatever the final decision is because everyone will have had an opportunity to express their views.


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