During lockdowns last year it was hard for my teenagers to get motivated. Uni lectures were pre-recorded and dull. Deadlines for assignments loomed, but the momentum that goes with being physically present in a tutorial was missing. My daughter liked to defer the work needed by heading to the kitchen and cooking. We called it procrastabaking. It wasn’t productive for her assignments and it added two inches to my husband’s waistline.
We know that non-profits are hungry for new partnerships. But when we dig deeper, we don’t see the type of systematic approach that will yield success. What’s holding teams back may be the same habits that drive my daughter to bake scones rather than complete her essay.
It’s natural to want to do things well. You want your proposal to be a winner. You’d love to connect a partner to your fabulous work. At the heart of perfectionism is the fear of failure. Perfectionism not only creates stress and anxiety, but it paralyses action. The author Lynne Cazaly in her book “ish” talks about the need to embrace being ‘good enough’. For partnership managers that means an incremental approach to getting to a ‘yes’ with a corporate partner. Don’t labour over the perfect proposal. Instead take a gradual path which means conversations and check-ins with your prospect, accepting there will be imperfections in your first outline or things you’ll have missed in the first meeting. “From our meeting I heard that your priorities are X, Y and Z. Have I got that right? Is there anything I’ve missed? Is one area more important than the others?” The iterations will ensure that you’ve properly understood your corporate prospect’s needs and the final proposal will be more likely to succeed.
Time is an elusive mistress. People know that it takes time to build a new partnership. But they always underestimate how much time they have to work on the important building foundations to a partnership. If you’re starting from scratch and wanting to go from ‘couch to $500k’, you need to put in the work to build your connections and start the conversations. We often suggest that partnership managers create their own personal dashboard with small targets and deadlines. It could include things like ‘5 new LinkedIn connections per week’ or ‘attend 2 networking events per month’. Make it small and achievable to break down a long journey into many stops. The Indian Pacific Railroad is a journey of 4,300 km between Sydney and Perth. It doesn’t make the 4 day trip in one go. Small wins and milestones will keep you motivated and positive for the journey ahead.
Pretty thing syndrome
Partnership people are creative and resourceful. That’s why it’s easy to get distracted by new, pretty, shiny things. They may interesting campaigns from another charity or they could be a bright idea from a board member. New shiny things can lead you down a rabbit hole of dreaming about possibilities rather than taking action. Setting clear goals for your partnership prospecting can help keep you focused on what’s important rather than what’s new and entertaining. In her book “The First Two Hours” the productivity expert Donna McGeorge tells us that the most proactive, high intensity and high impact work should be done in the first two hours of the day. Don’t clear your email inbox in the morning, leave it until after lunch when your energy is flagging. Put your focus, effort and energy into what’s important in a time when you’re the freshest.
If you think partnerships are a big opportunity for growth, don’t let the 3P’s hold back progress. The sooner you can start the prospecting journey the better. Like buying real estate, the best time was always last year. There are plenty of great corporates looking for awesome charity partners. Don’t keep them waiting.