I know I’ve spoken about being an introvert before. This is not a weakness of mine nor is it an area for improvement, but in a world dominated by extroversion, you do have to make a concerted effort as an introvert to determine your approach. Case in point: prospect management in a cocktail party setting.
In my role at Laurier, I am a prospect manager. I now have my own portfolio of prospects to cultivate, solicit, and steward. This occasionally involves a cocktail party-format donor appreciation event, one of which took place this past Tuesday.
Now, I wouldn’t say these kinds of events aren’t natural for me, nor would I say I find them difficult… I’d just say I find them draining. I might even say I find them very draining. So for a person who’s trying to strategically use their energy in that kind of event, what should the approach be???
Make a plan: One thing that helps me in these situations is making a plan in advance. I figure out how many prospects I have attending and write their names down on a list that I can reference throughout the event. On Tuesday I had 4 prospects who RSVP’d yes, so I wrote down their names and planned to connect with all of them.
Adjust the plan: Does everyone who RSVPs to an event show up? Never. On Tuesday I hovered near the nametag table a few times to see if my 4 prospects had shown up. In the end, only 3 of them had. I adjusted my list and now planned to connect with my 3 prospects throughout the evening.
Take breaks: I can mingle pretty decently, but as I’ve said, it takes a lot out of me. In order to survive the cocktail party, I need breaks. On Tuesday there was a room where the staff had put their coats and things, so 3 or so times during the event I escaped to the room to check my notes, take a breath, take a break, and then head back into the fray.
Quality over quantity: With 3 prospects at the event there was nothing stopping me from meaningfully connecting with them all, but that doesn’t mean I could expect a lengthy conversation with all of them, nor did I necessarily have the stamina for it. My mantra for cocktail parties has become quality over quantity. Small talk and glad-handing takes a lot out of me, so I try to find an opportunity for a meaningful conversation with even just one person at an event of this nature. On Tuesday I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity; one of my prospects – the one I knew the least of the 3 – was sitting alone eating at a table. I approached him, asked if I could join, and we got to know one another over the course of about 30 minutes. It was fantastic; I was sitting down, in a quieter area of the venue, and got to really understand the passions and interests of an unknown prospect. These kinds of conversations do in fact energize me, and they’re what made me want to do one-on-one fundraising in the first place.
With all of those strategies in place, I was able to have a personally and professionally successful evening.
What are your strategies, for introverts or extroverts???
Written by Maeve Strathy
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.