Stumped…

I had a rather disturbing conversation with the CEO of a major corporation this past week that sits on the board of one of our clients. Following an update to the board on our progress, he asked this question: “I’ve been following up with some folks and am finding that all I get is voice mail….what do I do”?

It wasn’t the question that surprised me – we deal with that phenomena every day in this business – but rather the source. This wasn’t just anybody; this was the CEO of a HQ company worth over $4 billion employing thousands in the region. This was no lightweight!

After responding with all of the usual tricks of the trade, I cornered him after the meeting to probe a little deeper; I had to learn more about what was happening. After all, leveraging high-level leaders to help “close” unresponsive prospects is a tried and true strategy in our business. The challenge has always been finding busy leaders that will take on the responsibility, NOT prospects being unresponsive to those leaders. Experience tells us that if we can get a high level CEO to call/e-mail/corner at a cocktail party that key, somewhat unresponsive prospect, that prospect WILL respond to the leader!

7.13 bush stumped

But what happens if they don’t? What do we do if one of the cornerstones of our industry doesn’t work?

So I asked him — “give me a little more detail on the people you have been calling” ….. “help me understand the dynamics of the situation”. Turns out it wasn’t “people” but a person. That was a good start! This person happens to be relatively new to the community and the CEO of a company embroiled in a dispute with one of the major cities over a contract. This was all making me feel better.

“What about the other three you have been tracking down” I asked. “Oh those will be fine — I’m having lunch with Jim next week, Bob’s on vacation but has already promised a response to our request upon his return and I will see Warren at a board meeting in a few days and can corner him there”. Feeling even better now!

Turns out our unresponsive prospect was a unique and manageable circumstance. “Give it some time” I advised. “Clearly he’s in the middle of a mess and needs some time to sort things out”. “Let’s give it 60 days and see where things stand with the city and maybe the environment will be a little better for continuing the conversation”. Crisis – triage – recovery!

7.13 crisis

Even though this story has a happy ending, the vignette highlights an important trend: corporate culture is changing. “Corporate responsibility” today is less about doing a little bit for everybody in the community you serve, and more about identifying strategic corporate objectives that can be supported and advanced by very targeted philanthropy. While there is more corporate philanthropic dollars available today than ever, they have never been as hard to secure.

EDOs must be strategic in their prospecting, targeted in their financial requests and surgical in their follow-up and management of investor relationships. Otherwise, they sub-optimize revenue generation, leading to compromised programming and results.

The game has changed! Have you?

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