Recently the Edmonton Chapter of the Financial Management Institute reached out to three levels of government to promote their May 17, 2017 Mental Health Event. The result: two endorsements and some notes on how to ask senior officials and politicians to promote an event.
Why Do you Need an Endorsement?
A little context please… You are on a committee of some sort. It may be for a volunteer organization (e.g. FMI, Scouts, church or work related) and you are doing something special (running a conference, publishing a book, launching a program or a website). In doing this you would like someone important (politician, senior public servant, corporate officer or religious official – collectively these are affectionately known as the “grand pooh bahs of something” or the GPBS) to acknowledge or endorse the thing you are doing.
Because this is a memory jog for me, the focus of this blog is an assumption that you are on the board of a FMI Chapter here in Canada and you want a GBPS to endorse your upcoming conference. The first question to ask is ‘Why do you want/need a GPBS endorsement?‘; typical reasons include:
- Mercantile: to increase sales to an event because you can point to the “GBPS’ endorsement” as proof the organization thinks it is important.
- Extending a Corporate or Social Policy: increase the credibility of the event by showing that if good ole’ GBPS says it is important, it must be.
- Immediate or Future Marketing: asking for an endorsement is one way that a GBPS will have a better awareness of your organization. Reminding the GBPS of the endorsement is a potential ice breaker for other discussions.
- Get Around Training Limitations: organizations may have constrained training budgets. Having an organization’s GBPS endorse the event is a way to pry open the coffers.
What Am I Endorsing – the So What Question?
The next question to ask is what is in it for the GBPS? This is critical as it is easier to get an endorsement that aligns with a policy, initiative or passion of the person rather than the GBPS being neutral, indifferent, or worse, hostile to your upcoming conference.
The reality is that the garden variety GBPS is probably interested in many of the same things you are. In fact an endorsement could be a cheap and easy way for the GPBS to show progress on a subject area with very little cost or effort to them or their office. For example, the theme of the May 17 FMI-Edmonton conference introduced above was a mentally healthy work place. This was important to both the senior official from the Alberta government (who is passionate about employee engagement) and is central the federal government as well (the senior official has devoted considerable effort promoting mental health within the federal public service).
So, What Do you Want?
Be very clear what you want and articulate it early. The following list of ‘ASKS’ is ordered from the easiest to the hardest for a GBPS to provide to your organization:
- Provide a letter of introduction or greetings.
- Provide written, in person or video opening comments and greetings.
- Endorse attendance and use this endorsement in FMI communications.
- Attend, speak or present at the event.
A letter of greetings is very low-cost for a GBPS particularly if you mostly write the letter for them (see more on this below). Providing opening comments to a conference is slightly harder but once again are made easier if you write the first draft. Attendance, video greetings or presentations are tough. A GBPS’ calendar is not their own and even if they say they will attend they have a nasty habit of bailing at the last moment. An endorsement to attend is also difficult to provide particularly if it sets up a precedence for other conferences.
The Care and Feeding of a GBPS
As noted above, the office of the GBPS is probably swamped – so make their life simple; this means doing the following (the first two bullets are recaps from above – but worth repeating):
- Understand why you want the endorsement.
- Be clear how this helps the GBPS achieve their goals and what is the ASK.
- Send a clear request through formal channels (if they exist) but also use your informal networks to promote the endorsement with the GBPS.
- Provide the GPBS with samples and even write the first draft as applicable.
- Follow up with a courtesy phone call or email; be short, sweet and extremely respective of the person’s time. For example, Betty is the Chief of Staff for the Deputy Minister GBPS; a phone call may follow this script:
- JOHN: “Hello Betty, it is John Smith here. I am following up on an email I sent you two days ago concerning Mr. GBPS providing a letter of endorsement for our FMI conference on left-handed screw drivers. Can you confirm that your office has received it?”
- JOHN: “You did, perfect and thank you for confirming this.”
- JOHN: “As you work through your internal processes, if you have any questions about the conference I am happy to answer them on the phone, email or pop down to your office.”
- JOHN: “May I follow-up in two weeks to see how the letter is progressing?”
- JOHN: “Is there anybody else I should be speaking with from your office so I don’t bother you”
- JOHN: “Thank you very much for taking the time to talk and confirm the endorsement letter is in progress, it is greatly appreciated!”
- Email is the typical way to initiate contact. A sample format can be found at the bottom of the blog but generally is broken into the following:
- 1. Salutation and who is FMI: A quick overview of who you are and what is FMI. 1-2 sentences is lots but include some links at the bottom in case the GBPS’ staff needs to do some research.
- 2. The ASK and the WHY: Provide 1-3 sentences of what you are asking for, by when, how it will be used and what is in it for the GBPS.
- 3. Thank You and the Sample: Close the email and include a sample (as applicable) for the ASK. This may be in the email or attached.
Follow Up and Usage
When you have received the endorsement, immediately send a thank you note to the people who made it happen. 1-2 lines very short expressing your appreciation.
Hi Betty, John Smith here from FMI. I received the endorsement letter and I wanted to let you know it is perfect. I strongly believe that this conference will really advance an understanding of left-handed screw drivers and you and your office helped to make this happen. Once again, on behalf of my board, thank you.
Only use the endorsement in manner you said you were going to use it. If you said it was going to be on the chapter website, don’t necessarily send it out via your Linked in account to all of your users. Think of the endorsement as a matter of trust – respect that gift of trust.
After the Event
The last step is easily as important as all the others above, let the GBPS know how the conference went and the impact of their endorsement. Once again a quick email is sufficient. Thank the GBPS re-affirms the time they spent providing the endorsement, increases your brand recognition and improves the chances of getting a future endorsement.
Hi Betty, John Smith from FMI. I wanted to let you know the May 17 conference on left-handed screw drivers was a complete success. 3,000 enthusiastic public servants attended and we really advanced an understanding of this issue. Once again the endorsement letter Mr. GBPS provided really helped to make this conference successful. Thank you once again!
Hello Ms. EBPS,
I am a Director with the Government of Widgetland but I am writing you wearing my other hat as President of the Financial Management Institute (FMI) Yegville Chapter. I am a volunteer board member with this not for profit organization and our primary purpose is to deliver high quality learning events on topics that are of interest to a public sector audience from all three levels of government. Our next event will be coming up on Wednesday May 17, 2098 and will include an impressive lineup of speakers who will address the topic of ‘The Safe Use and History of the Left Handed Screwdrivers‘.
I know in your role as Deputy Minister of Grand Pooh Bah and with our provincial government focus on employee engagement, you have a strong desire to support and encourage healthy left-handed activities and a resilient workforce that is well positioned for the future. So would you be willing to provide some written greetings from the Government of Widget Land that could be included in our moderator’s opening remarks? I believe that your message would be well received by our audience and would help boost our profile as well as share a positive message. Thank you in advance for considering my request and I look forward to hearing your reply in the near future.
By way of additional background we are part of the National Financial Management Institute of Canada that serves over 2,800 members across Canada. www.fmi.ca
In addition, the link below will give you some additional information about our upcoming event as well as past events that were delivered by the Yegville Chapter.
I have taken the liberty of providing some suggested content and format:
Format: an open letter from Ms. GBPS to members of the Widget land Public Service, fellow public servants and other attendees. This will be reproduced digitally in the front of the pre-conference notes.
Re: Greetings from the Deputy Minister of Grand Pooh Bah.
[Note to GBPS’s staff, possible themes in the message]…
- Greetings from the Widgetland Public Service.
- Public servants from all levels of all governments need to create open, inclusive and healthy workplaces for staff and colleagues.
- Attending a conference such as this one is one way to learn more about how to build such work places.
- Meet fellow public servants and learn how we can better serve our constituents through a healthy work place.
- Safety is a paramount concern for the government of Widgetland and left handed screw drivers caused more than 1,000 injuries last year in our province.