The Power of the Briefing
You’re a development officer, looking forward to a prospect meeting next week. The location is booked, prospect confirmed, and your faculty champion has agreed to join you. You’ve discussed this meeting with your faculty partner, so now you’re good to go, right? Not quite… a meeting without a strategic and thoughtful briefing is a waste of time for both the donor and the champion.
The written briefing document is an irreplaceable tool in staffing faculty, physicians, volunteers and organizational partners/leaders who are so important to our work with prospects and donors.
As someone who has staffed leadership, and been staffed as leadership, I have seen too many briefings that miss the mark. These briefings missed desired outcomes, sought after goals, or why my presence in a meeting is important. I have reviewed briefings intended for key institutional leadership, and could not discern what role they should play, and why that might be important to the overall strategy. I have read pages of background information, none of it tied to the purpose or reason for the meeting. Or worse, too much background with no connection of dots. I have received briefings an hour or two before a meeting … far too late to be able to contribute to a strategy, let alone be prepared for the meeting I was to attend, lead, or otherwise add value to.
However, briefings can be a vehicle for us to do some of our best work. Are you ensuring they serve this purpose?
When our partners give their limited time to development efforts, we must steward that time effectively. This means preparing them to be as effective as possible, and demonstrating confidence in our strategy and our use of their time. The written briefing accomplishes both of these items in one efficient tool.
Why? Because a briefing document ensures you and your institutional partner are on the same page, with key messages, goals, and information recorded clearly. It demonstrates the larger strategy by including context and vision, further building respect for the process and the expertise of the development officer. And, it clearly demonstrates thoughtfulness for the role of this partner, and a respect for his or her time.
The written briefing must incorporate key elements to achieve all of these goals. To serve your prospect/development strategy, it should include:
- Purpose of the meeting or event – placing it in the context of an overall strategy
- Role of the partner in the meeting or event and in the larger strategy – demonstrating that his or her presence is a good use of time
- Key talking points – who is responsible for carrying which key messages
- Anticipated outcomes – and how to get them
And, don’t forget the logistics too:
- Dress code
- Location and parking instructions
- Critical times for participation (if an event)
- Phone number for a staff member who will be available that entire day in case of emergency or last-minute request or question
Remember, our prospects and donors want access to leadership, and including institutional partners in our work provides this entrée. Access helps move relationships, and our job is to make it as easy as possible for our partners to provide it.
When we implement this tool of the trade, we get rich returns. By putting our most professional foot forward, we earn the respect of our colleagues and secure the strategic outcomes we need. Our partners and our donors deserve this effort!
I challenge you to implement or retool written briefings and share your successes here!
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