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Someone asked me recently about how to get people to help him. He was embarking on a not-for-profit project and needed to find funders and partners to help make the project happen.  Here are the seven tips I shared with him, that I practice in my own work and relationships:

  1. Build relationships over time. Over the past year or two (sometimes longer), I have been cultivating relationships with people that are now leaping in to work with me.
  2. Look for the mutual desire to work together. When I meet people, I get a sense of whether there is a mutual desire to work together. Usually the conversation is full of positive energy and there is a strong sense that we are on the same path, often unspoken, but we can tell we really like each other and what each is doing. We keep each other in mind and think of ways to work together because we want to.
  3. Look for mutually beneficial relationships. I help you, you help me.  I help them, they help me.
  4. Be the first to give. I always try to give something, even in the first meeting or conversation, be it a book recommendation, my own insight, or offer to make a connection for the other person. When I am the first to give, it makes it much easier for me to ask them for something later.
  5. Make it easy for other people to say yes. I think about how to make helping me easy for them (i.e. cap the time required of them, for example usually only an hour or two). I work around their schedule, I work to their strengths. Sometimes I stretch people, so that their reward for helping me is a learning or growth outcome. This is especially important if there is little or no financial reward for their participation.
  6. Learn the art of invitation. Firstly, I invite people to help me. Everything is an invitation – it is welcoming and they can accept or decline. It’s a subtle difference from asking and is a useful approach when making an initial request of someone.
  7. Make the ask. But there comes a time, when you must be clear, direct, and make the ask. A major change in mindset for me recently was that, I’m not asking people to help me like they are doing me a favour. I am asking them to help me because it is awesome for them. They want to be part of something cool. It is an opportunity for them.

These tips apply to seeking investors, co-founders, customers, partners, funders, you name it.  Try them out and let me know about your experience.  Bon courage!