It’s been said over and over in a thousand different ways: fundraising is not about money – it’s about relationships. But still, the vast majority of people who have not earned their Major Gifts Cultivation badge get snagged by various forms of anxiety about money. If we can name some of those anxieties, maybe we can disempower them, so we can get back to talking about relationships. Here are seven that I have heard frequently.
- Money is secret. A board member from a non profit organization in Duluth, Minnesota captured this sentiment perfectly when he said, “Where I come from, you might ask your brother how much he payed for a new car, but you certainly wouldn’t ask your cousin.” Asking for a gift is simply presenting an opportunity. It does not require discussing, or even knowing, the details of the prospect’s family budget.
- I don’t know any rich people. Interestingly, only 28% of people with investable assets of $1-5 million consider themselves rich, according to a recent report from UBS. Your cousin with $5 million in her bank account might not be a candidate for naming rights to the new wing of your building, but she could probably write a check for a couple thousand to support a cause she cares about.
- If I ask people for money, they will ask me to support their favorite charities. My guess is that the
underlying anxiety is, “I don’t want to owe anyone a favor.” Well, yes, it is a possibility. And when the shoe is on the other foot, you will have the chance to say yes or no, just as the person you are about to solicit does.
- Asking for money feels like begging. Asking for a philanthropic gift (when done right) is giving someone the chance to make the world a kinder, more hospitable place. It’s about making someone a hero. It’s a noble act – the furthest thing in the world from begging.
- They won’t give because…. There are dozens of ways to finish that sentence. But when you start down that road, you are confusing the solicitor’s job (presenting an opportunity) with the prospect’s job (responding to the invitation).
- Asking my friends for money will threaten the friendship. When you find a new restaurant you love, do you want to take your friends there? When you discover a new kind of music, do you want to hand your earphones to your friends? When you have a philanthropic passion, why not invite your friends to join you in that opportunity to make the world a better place? Again, the solicitor’s job is simply to ask – not to anticipate what the answer will be.
- I don’t know anyone else who is committed to this cause. That is why good fundraising gives prospective donors a chance to learn about, and get excited about, the organization before solicitation takes place.
So now, let’s get back to talking about relationships. Because if those anxieties about money stay in the front of your mind, they become self-fulfilling prophecies. They will confirm the “I can’t be a fundraiser” impulse. Or, they will create unnecessary tension when you do muster the courage to ask for a gift.
Think about the people who have the capacity to make a gift, who could also get excited about your organization’s mission. Or the people who are already donors, but who, you believe, could give more if they got more involved. What is the next step in sharing the great work of the organization? What is the next step in learning about what motivates their generosity? As long as those questions are in the front of your mind, the anxiety will fall away.
Even for experienced fundraisers, the tension never disappears completely. But it becomes less like the stage-fright of a novice thespian and more like the adrenaline surge a veteran actor feels before stepping on stage.
The preceding is a guest post by Paul Jolly, founder of Jump Start Growth, Inc. (www.jumpstartgrowth.com). Paul worked as a fund raising professional for over 20 years before starting the consulting firm Jump Start Growth. He began his career serving various Quaker institutions, then moved to The Wilderness Society, and then the American Civil Liberties Union. In every instance, he has zeroed in on gifts from individuals at the top of the giving pyramid. The focus of Paul’s consulting work is bringing sophisticated major gifts fund raising practices to organizations that are outside of the philanthropic mainstream. His successes include leading three capital campaigns for organizations new to major gifts fund raising, securing millions of dollars in bequest and planned gift commitments, and bringing new life and laser-sharp focus to disheartened development departments.