If you’re a fundraiser, it’s often helpful to think like a donor.
When leading workshops, I encourage people to flip this mental switch. “How many of you have ever given away money to anybody for any reason at all?” Of course, all the hands go up.
Then I ask people to pair off and talk about why they give. These small groups generate a long list of reasons; here’s one of the most popular. Giving feels good.
I test this with the participants. “How many of you have ever made a charitable gift and felt good about it?” Again, everyone raises their hands.
This leads to another challenging question: Why are we so uncomfortable asking people to do something that makes them feel good when they do it? Depending on your experience and your attitude, you might find it difficult to sit in your neighbor’s kitchen and ask her for $100—but when she says yes, she likes it.
Fundraising isn’t about the asker—it’s about the donor
I’ve wrestled with this question for 35 years and can only come up with one answer. We feel uncomfortable because we believe the solicitation is about us, the askers. We focus on our own discomfort and insecurities. We get stuck on the money taboos.
As a solicitor, your job is to reach out with integrity—to make a clear case for your organization, to listen carefully, to engage the other person on as many levels as you can.
You’re there to serve your organization and the needs of the donor. In the end, how you feel is much less important than the donor’s feelings—and most of the time, the donor feels good.
It’s not about me
I recently organized an online fundraising campaign for our new Training, Facilitation, and Consulting Certificate Program through Marlboro College.
Using personal email and the Train Your Board e-list, I reached out to friends and professional colleagues to ask for their support. Many gave, which felt terrific—and a whole lot more didn’t.
In the end, we failed to reach our fundraising goal. For a full analysis of why—oh, let us count the ways—check out this recent post.
I’ll admit to feeling disappointed and even judgmental. Why can’t my friends see the value of this project? Don’t they understand how important this is—to ME?
Ouch! Not about me, not about me, not about me ...
As I learn and re-learn, fundraisers must develop the self-discipline to not take it personally, and compassion to not judge others—especially friends and colleagues—when they choose not to give.
“I’m trying to get over myself”
Many years ago, at the start of a fundraising workshop, I asked participants why they came and what they wanted to learn.
One woman raised her hand and said, “I’m trying to get over myself.”
Translation: I’m trying to let go of my ego, so I can be of service to my organization.
This is the sweet spot. Sooner or later, all successful fundraisers must embrace humility.
If you approach the fundraising process with the proper attitude—celebrating success, and not taking rejection personally—you’re going to feel fine. And you’ll probably raise a lot more money.
This is a cross-post by Andy Robinson from the Train Your Board blog. For 35 years, Andy has worked with a variety of nonprofits as a fundraiser, facilitator, trainer, and community organizer. As fundraising consultant, he's provided support and training to thousands of nonprofit staff and volunteer leaders in 47 U.S. states and across Canada. Andy specializes in the needs of organizations working for human rights, social justice, artistic expression, environmental conservation, and community development. To learn more, visit www.andyrobinsononline.com.