Go Fast? Go Alone. Go Far? Go Together: Tools and Thoughts to Gaining Buy-In for Successful Projects by Lizzi Hollis

November 25, 2019 Louise Sparks

At bbcon UK 2019, we were lucky enough to hear from Lizzi Hollis from Richard House Children's Hospice who was joined on stage by Richard Sved from 3rd Sector Mission Control. Here, Lizzi shares her tips for getting the buy-in to make your project super successful...

Getting buy-in is imperative to doing our jobs properly, regardless of the function. Buy-in comes in different shapes and sizes, from donors, but also colleagues, senior leadership and the board. Below, I look at some of the techniques you can use for gaining buy-in.

There are three key fundamentals we need to do to gain and keep the buy-in of our supporters, they are effective communication, demonstrating impact and having a robust donor journey:

  • Communications - If your donor can’t connect with your organisation, they won’t be interested in supporting you now or in the future. Your comms should reflect your key audience and most important messages. You should make sure you research your donor demographics, in whatever income stream you’re responsible for so that you can make the way you communicate feel personal, even if it’s on a mass scale.
  • Demonstrating impact - Donors want to see how their money is spent, to know they’ve made a difference. No matter what income stream you’re responsible for, you should be able to tell donors what their money is spent on. If they have given to a specific project or campaign, make sure to target your communications to that. The tools you can use to demonstrate impact are project visits, letters from beneficiaries, case studies and videos.
  • Donor journeys – a clear stewardship plan/ journey is a really important way to ensure buy in, as it gives you a clear way to engage that group/individual. The simplest version of a donor journey is in the image below, but often there are multiple stakeholders involved with a single donor and collaboration is required to ensure that donor gets the best possible experience with your organisation. The key to a successful donor journey is to think beyond the budget and make stewardship choices that are best for the donor.

    Senior Stakeholders
    Whether it’s your manager, the board or the senior leadership team in order to make change and drive forward the vision for your area of work, there are going to be times when you have to gain the buy-in with senior stakeholders. A great technique for working out how to get buy-in from these people and how best to engage them is by conducting a stakeholder mapping exercise. Stakeholder Mapping is the process of deciding how to communicate with specific stakeholders on the progress of a project. Using this system helps you to easily identify your key people and how best to engage them. You can base this on their level of seniority, personality, level of interest in the project etc.
    Have a go at this exercise, thinking about your manager, CEO, board.

Having buy in from our colleagues is really important to driving forward ideas and creating successful projects. If you’re finding resistance from colleagues, it’s good to try to understand the source and ask the right questions to overcome it. Usually reticence to engage will be caused by one of three things, the person either doesn’t like it, doesn’t get it or doesn’t trust you/the project. See the matrix below for how you can deal with those ‘no’s’ and get the buy-in you need.

It’s also important to understand the different personalities of your colleagues. When gaining buy-in remember, everyone approaches the project differently, asks different questions and sees different pros and cons. This is of course really beneficial to creating projects and programmes with diversity of thought, but when dealing with loads of different personalities you have to control the narrative. Next time you’re conducting a meeting think about whether you have a mix of different views and who in the room fits into the below categories and how you have to manage them to achieve the best results and optimum buy-in.

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