Why the Right People Don’t Care About Your Cause

No sign
Hard to hear, right?
Credit: ginaverdezoto’s weblog

I write compelling stories. They turn into grants.  Speeches. Marketing and collateral for interesting people. Branding for causes.

Invariably, everyone who comes to me has the same problem:

Great idea or cause… and no one cares. They approach a partner or funder and get denied. They put things out in social media and have no interest.

Why is that?

You’ve got irrefutable data. You got stories about how if we just do this one thing, things would be better for a lot of people. Or maybe your life has been one adventure after another, and now you’ve written a book.

Still not getting as many clicks as you’d like?

I understand. A few years ago (okay, maybe 10 years ago), I was coordinating a conference for a major university. The speakers were well-known in their field. One was a MacArthur Genius Grant winner, and another a local legend. We were expecting close to 500 attendees from across the country.

I couldn’t pull a sponsor to save my job. Things weren’t going well and I was actually going to quit to save the conference when I (finally!) recruited my first donor.  I asked why she was sponsoring.

What you’ll read below is her answer and 5 more crucial pointers I’ve learned over my years of grantwriting that I will share in this 2-part blog. (Part 2 is here.) Feel free to comment, or ask a question. Tell me how you got to your “yes”—or ask me how to get past a “no”.

Why people don’t care about your cause:

1.            You don’t know what you want.

When you get on the phone or in front of the person who can make a difference, do you know what you need from them? If you speak in broad terms, or make general statements, I think you’re not really sure what you’re doing. Don’t try a shotgun approach to asking— know who I am, and be laser-focused with what you’re asking for.

2.            You’re talking to the wrong person.

Every great idea has natural advocates. Organic farmers will support the locavore movement. Animal lovers will support PETA. A good actor will have an audience of people who like great characters.  Are you approaching a funder just because they have deep pockets? How does what you do support what they do?

3.            You’re talking to the right company, but the wrong person.

Great! You’ve found a company that naturally aligns with your mission or your message. You know that they would love the event you’re planning—or the cause you’re promoting. You’re getting a “no” because the person you’re talking to has different priorities than you. Who in the company has the same priorities as you do?

Here, I finish this 2-part blog by discussing these high-stakes reasons why no one cares:

4.            You’re telling the wrong story.

5.            You’re depressing us.

6.            You have no space for us.  

And one crucial thing that everyone misses when looking for a sponsoring partner.

Am I right on the nose? Leave me a comment, or tell me your story.

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