Emma Lewzey will identify the specific shifts you must make to raise more 5- and 6-figure gifts–without letting fear, intimidation, or imposter syndrome get in your way.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. And I got two o’clock Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started officially?

Emma: Let’s do it.

Steven: All right. Awesome. Good afternoon, everybody. I guess good morning if you’re on the West Coast. If you’re watching this recording, I hope you’re having a good day no matter when and where you are. We are here to talk about “How to Overcome Fear, Intimidation, and Imposter Syndrome to Raise More Money.” Imposter syndrome, I got that bad. So I’m going to listen as intently as you folks are. So thanks for being here. We’re going to have some fun over the next hour or so. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s little chat as always. 

And just a couple of housekeeping items, real quick. I just want to let you all know that we are recording the session, and we’ll be sending out the recording as well as slides later on today. So, if you have to leave early, or maybe you get interrupted, or a family member barges in on your home office, or a dog barks, or something, don’t worry, we will get you all the resources later today. It’ll come in an email from me later on today. So just be on the lookout for that. 

But most importantly, please feel free to send in any questions or comments along the way. We’re going to save some time for Q&A. We love to hear from you. Introduce yourself if you haven’t already. There’s a chat box and a Q&A box. You can use either. If you use the Q&A box, maybe you’ve slightly better chance that we see your question, but don’t sit on your hands. We’d love to hear from you. You can even send us a tweet. I’ll keep kind of half an eye on the Twitter feed as well. But bottom line is we’ve got an expert here who’s going to answer some questions at the end. So don’t be shy. 

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, welcome. We do these webinars every Thursday. It’s something we’re pretty well known for. But if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang, if you’re wondering what the heck Bloomerang is, we’re also a provider of donor management software. So check that out if you’re interested, if you’re curious, all kinds of good stuff on our website, videos you can watch. But don’t do that right now because, speaking of first webinar, we are big-time writing a big-time wrong today because Emma is someone I have wanted on the webinar series for a long time. It’s not her fault. It’s my fault. I never actually extended an invite, but I am so, so happy because it’s been number one on my list. Emma, you’re awesome. How are you doing? Are you doing okay?

Emma: I’m doing awesome. And I am so excited to be here today because this is one of my number one favorite topics. So thanks for having me.

Steven: Yeah. This is going to be good. If you all don’t know Emma, I mean, I’ve been seeing her awesome videos on LinkedIn and Facebook, and every time, just really good advice and just like breaks through to something that I never thought of that way. I’m like, “I got to have Emma on.” And now we’re finally doing it. Check her out. She’s over at Blue Sky Philanthropy, helps a lot of organizations raise money. And it’s just super insightful, and I cannot wait to hear and for you all to hear what she has to say because, dang, this is an important topic. So I’ve already taken up your time, Emma. I’m going to pipe down here. Let me stop sharing my slides, and you can pull up yours. Let’s see if this works here.

Emma: Awesome. Okay. I’m going to go ahead and share my screen. Everyone’s seeing me okay? 

Steven: Yeah. It looks good.

Emma: Excellent.

Steve: Take it away. 

Emma: All right, friends. So welcome, everybody. I’m so glad to see everybody here. All right. So I’m super excited to talk about this topic because it is one that’s really close to my heart. So the goal of our time here together today is we’re actually going to start identifying the specific mindset shifts that you need to make. So this is a super practical presentation. We’re looking at the specific mindset shifts that you need to make to build the confidence that you need to start raising more five and six-figure gifts without letting fear, intimidation, or imposter syndrome get in the way. So, as you’ll hear in this presentation, you don’t have to get rid of them altogether, and chances are you’ll never be able to get rid of these things. But we can definitely move forward and be more effective in our work once we start recognizing the importance of mindset. 

All right. So hang on one sec. My clicker’s not working. Okay. You know what I’m going to do. There we go. I’ll do it the old-fashioned way. Okay. We’re talking about today something that’s important because here is what I have noticed that the tactics and the strategies around major gifts are super important, but in my experience more than anything, it’s actually mindset that can make or break your success. There we go. Clicker is back in action. 

All right. So, if you’re like a lot of fundraisers, here are some of the challenges that you’re probably dealing with right now. So, number one, I think, all of us are operating within a set of limiting beliefs. That’s something we’re going to talk a lot about today. But typically, we don’t know it. Limiting beliefs can be invisible, they can be really hard to identify, and they come from all around us. So not only are we dealing with our own personal limiting beliefs, but we’re also dealing with the limiting beliefs that actually come along in our organization and actually in our sector as a whole, right? And, I think, we’ve really seen this come into sharp relief during the pandemic. Like a lot of the stresses and fears we have, especially around fundraising, have really become magnified over the past year or so. And finally, I think, one of the interesting challenges is, is that we’re not taught a lot of this in school or in conferences. We don’t actually talk a lot about this. We’re so focused on, like, the how-to and the tactical execution, but the mindset piece is such an important part of the puzzle when it comes to fundraising success.

All right. And if you’re like a lot of fundraisers, you probably have some desires that you’re experiencing when it comes to major gift fundraising. And these can include building your confidence, it’s a big one I hear a lot about, and increasing your comfort level when it comes to working with big donors. We talked about imposter syndrome at the beginning. Steven said he would like to get over that, and wouldn’t we all, right? Because it’s a pretty natural part of our work. It’s going to come up, and, in fact, it can come on especially strong, I find, when we’re working with major donors or working with those five, six, or seven-figure gifts. 

And, I think, the other thing we’ve noticed is, it’s really important that we stay positive and try and figure out how to keep up our fundraising momentum during challenging times, right? And keeping up our momentum right now is so, so important. It’s been a long hard road like for a lot of us. I’m in Toronto, and we’re actually still in lockdown now. So a lot of you are at different stages of reopening after the pandemic, and the future still feels uncertain, right? But here’s the thing is that, I think, we actually have a great opportunity ahead of us as we enter into post-pandemic recovery. Major donors we have seen are investing in important work across all different types of organizations, all sizes of organizations. And when we historically look back to recovery after times of crisis like during the Great Recession, traditionally, oftentimes, major donors tend to lead the way during recovery. So there is a tremendous opportunity for us right now.

All right. So just to remind you the goal of our time here together today, we’re going to start identifying those specific practical mindset shifts that you need to make to build the confidence you need to start raising more five and six-figure gifts without letting fear or intimidation or impostor syndrome get in the way. 

All right. So let’s go ahead and dive deeper into the content. I want to start off by talking a little bit more about limiting beliefs and what exactly I mean by this. I think limiting beliefs can be super challenging to spot. So there’s this great parable. You may have heard it before. It’s about two young fish, and they’re swimming along one day, and they happen to run into an older fish swimming the other way. The older fish nods at them and says, “Good morning, friends. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one looks at the other and says, “What the heck is water,” right? So I think we can be a little bit like fish in water when it comes to our limiting beliefs, right, especially those that we have about ourselves because these can be beliefs we pick up in childhood, for example, beliefs about money are really big ones that we pick up from our families very, very early. And these can continue to influence us in our day-to-day work in a way that can sometimes be a little hard to spot, right? 

So, before we go any further, I want to introduce you to my number one nemesis, and that is a telephone, right? Picking up the 500-pound phone and calling donors was a big struggle for me. Okay. So I consider myself an introvert, and as an introvert, there are a lot of things that I really dislike about the phone, right? Phone calls can feel a bit intrusive to me. I find not being able to read non-verbal cues kind of challenging. And finally, I realized I was at an impasse, right? I loved getting face-to-face with donors, and avoiding the phone was actually getting in the way of my fundraising success. It was getting in the way of me booking those face-to-face meetings that I loved so much. 

And when I reflected a little bit more on my aversion to using the phone, I realized a lot of my discomfort was actually related to my own limiting beliefs, both about myself, but also the beliefs I tended to project on to others, right? So I’m still not in love with the phone, right? I know a lot of you aren’t. But I also do know it’s an absolutely crucial tool, right? So first for me in fundraising and now probably even more so actually in my business as an entrepreneur. But before I really started being able to effectively tackle my phone avoidance, I needed to get clear about exactly what was holding me back. 

So I want to know from you. How do you relate to my story? Does anyone identify with this idea of having a hard time picking up the 500-pound phone? It may not be the phone for you, but chances are other things are holding you back. Oh, I know I’m seeing, “Ugh, the phone. I hate phones.” Yes, me too. Oh, it’s tough. I know I’m not alone in this, right? Yeah. Yeah. I dread calling. I’m seeing dread coming up a lot for sure. Yeah. And not being able to read non-verbal cues 100%. So a lot of anxiety around the phone, a lot of anxiety around picking up the phone. Even extroverts hate phoning donors as well. So, wow, the chat’s on fire. So it’s good. I see a lot of folks identify with this story as well. Oh, my goodness, someone even hates thinking about it at all. Yeah. No. It’s tough. 

We’re going to have a look at some of our other limiting beliefs, right, and we’re going to look at specific examples as to how they relate to our work, right, how these beliefs actually tend to come up in our day-to-day work. So first we have our beliefs about the world, and these can actually be very deep-seated, right, very deep-seated and hard to spot. But they’re not always reality, and very rarely are they actually the whole truth even if they might seem accurate. 

So here’s a few I hear often, right? Let me know if any of these sound familiar. “There’s just too much competition. How can we be successful? The market is so, so crowded,” right? Here’s number two. I think you might identify this if you’re with a smaller shop. “We’re just too small to be able to raise big gifts.” And number three. This one came up a lot during the past year. We saw folks on boards. We saw leadership saying, “It’s inappropriate to fundraise during a pandemic. It’s insensitive. So we actually have to stop fundraising.” We saw this a lot, especially in the early days. “We have to stop fundraising during the pandemic because this, in fact, is insensitive to our donors.” So these are all examples of limiting beliefs, right? And I talked to a lot of fundraising and nonprofit organizations, and I see these come up pretty commonly. You probably do too. Okay.

Our second type of limiting belief is about others. So these are some of the stories we tend to tell ourselves, right? Maybe we’re thinking about reaching out to a donor. “Oh, you know, I’m not even going to try because he’s going to be way too busy to meet with me.” Here’s one that also came up a lot during the pandemic. I’m someone who actually fundraised through the Great Recession as well. We heard this a lot during the recession. “Oh, they can’t possibly give right now. The stock market’s taken a hit. They’re not going to be able to afford to do this.” And then sometimes we have beliefs about others and about how people with wealth behave that really tends to impact the way we fundraise. Here’s one I hear a lot. “Wealthy donors, they only really care about recognition. They just want to put their name on something,” right? But these are all limiting beliefs, right? These are common ones. And I find they’re often actually based on assumptions, right? They’re based on assumptions that we make about others that are actually holding us back from taking action on our fundraising in a lot of ways. 

Okay. Finally, we have limiting beliefs about ourselves. And these ones can actually be some of the toughest to spot, right? They’re so tied to our identity. So it can be really hard to separate that out. But here’s a hint I always find really helpful. If you think, “Oh, I’m just naturally good at this, or I’m just bad at that,” that could be a good sign it’s a limiting belief. So how familiar do these ones sound? “I’m an introvert, so I’m no good at networking or donor meetings as an introvert.” I’m an introvert, so I identify with that one too. Maybe it’s, “I’ve always been a procrastinator. I have a really hard time getting started on new projects.” And here’s my number one favorite one because I see perfectionism is a huge problem in major gift fundraising. “I have to get this perfect,” right? “I have to get this perfect because major donors won’t settle for anything less,” right? So these are all limiting beliefs, even though they may not sound like it. And these are limiting beliefs about ourselves that can actually really get in the way of us taking action on our fundraising.

All right. So I want to know from you, what is . . . and I’m going to ask you to type into the chat box right now. Take a minute to reflect. What’s the limiting belief that might be impacting your fundraising? So it could be something I mentioned. It could be something different. I want you to go ahead and share, and I want you to get . . . perfection. My chat box just look like this with perfection. Definitely, the introvert thing. Perfection’s a huge one. “Oh, I’m too young. I don’t seem credible or experienced enough.” Perfection is one that people really resonates with, folks. “I don’t like face-to-face.” Yeah. Oh, my goodness, these are great. The fear of someone saying no. We’re going to talk about that a lot later. “I’m new to this. I have no idea what I’m doing,” right? Perfection. I see perfection a lot. 

Well, you know what? This is a great example, right, because I want to talk actually about what’s the result. What’s the result when we buy into these beliefs? Let me use an example of perfectionism, right? I have seen this firsthand because we have a big problem with perfectionism in major gifts. I’ve seen organizations rather take two months to get a donor a proposal to make sure that every T is crossed that every I is dotted rather than turning something around a little more quickly, right? 

I feel like perfectionism may be one of the biggest things that’s resulting in us leaving the most amount of money on the table when it comes to fundraising, right? So possibly unpopular opinion, but perfectionism is a big, big problem in major gifts, and it’s holding us back. It’s holding us back from making those calls, connecting with those donors, and raising that money we need so urgently for our mission. 

I love this. This is a great group, and I want to say thank you for being so interactive and actually having the courage to go ahead and weigh in here in the chat because I want you to know I talk to a lot of fundraisers, I coach a lot of fundraisers, and whatever your belief is that you feel like might be getting in the way of your fundraising, you’re not alone. You’re not alone in having that belief. We’re all struggling with very similar things, right? 

Steven said at the beginning, “Oh, good, like we’re going to be able to talk about how I can get over my impostor syndrome.” And the fact is no matter how much we grow and no matter how far along we come in our careers, we are often grappling with the same issues, right? So I want you to know you’re not alone, and that chances are, if you’re feeling a certain way, others are too no matter where they are in their career. 

And actually speaking of which I want to move on to talking about fear. This is a big one. So fear is a big one for folks. I’m just going to take a quick sip of my water. Fear is a big one for folks, and I’m going to talk a little bit about learning how to work with common fears that tend to come up when it comes to major gifts, right? And I often say this is inevitable. It’s inevitable. Again, no matter how experienced you get, it tends to be that fears will inevitably arise in the course of our major gift work. So starting to recognize those is a really important step and be able to move forward because here is a fact. Mother Nature has just made us highly threat-reactive, right? She wants us to be alarmed at a thousand paper tigers in order to avoid missing one single one that might be hiding and ready to pounce. So this has evolved as a protective strategy, right? Thanks, Mother Nature, and thanks, brains, right? This is a protective mechanism that has come over millions of years of evolution, right? 

So it turns out we humans are hardwired with what neuroscientists refer to as a negativity bias. You’ve probably heard that term before. So, essentially, what that means is we more clearly remember, but also we give more weight to events and experiences that we perceive as negative over those that we perceive as positive, right? Now, I always like to be really clear here. When I’m talking about negativity bias is that I’m not saying or suggesting that there aren’t very real threats out there right now, right? We’re coming at the other end of a pandemic. A lot of us are dealing with the unequal impact of COVID. A lot of us are grappling with the continued threat of racist violence. So I want to be really clear there. 

The key, I think, with negativity bias is just the ability to start being able to determine between what’s the difference, what’s the difference between a very real threat that we need to take action on. So the real tiger. What’s the difference between that and a perceived threat? So the paper tiger that might actually be getting in the way of us taking action. 

Because here’s what’s at stake, right? There’s a lot at stake at our organization. When we don’t recognize negativity bias and how it impacts our decision-making about perceived threats, our fundraising suffers, and more importantly, our mission suffers too, right? So I think we’ve seen a lot of this during the pandemic. It’s been highlighted over the past year. And I want to share this quote from Dr. Rick Hanson who is an expert in neuroplasticity and negativity bias because I think this kind of sums it up so beautifully in a nutshell. We saw this happen a lot during the pandemic is that we saw, “A negativity bias makes us overestimate threats, but more importantly, underestimate opportunities and underestimate our resources,” right? So this has been heightened over the past year, I think, especially the underestimating opportunities, for example, going back to that notion of assuming donors are going to stop giving, so not even taking the action to ask, right? 

So negativity bias can tend to feed into fear, which is another perfectly normal function of your brain. If you feel fear, that’s good news, right? It’s simply your brain doing its job. Fear is hardwired into our brain, and everyone feels it whether they like to admit it or not. Like I said, we don’t tend to like to talk about this a lot, right? And often what happens is we get scared because of what we imagine could happen, right, so especially as we push ourselves out of our comfort zone, especially if we’re trying to grow and try new things, that’s when fear can definitely arise. But here’s the trick. We’ll be talking about this later as well. It’s only through taking action that you can expand that comfort zone, right? So it is a tricky thing. 

So the reality is, I can attest to this, you will always feel fear as you continue to grow. In fact, it can be a good sign that you’re continuing to challenge yourself as opposed to stagnating, right? So I’m going to look specifically at three fears that you can expect to arise over the course of your major gift work. There may be more than three, but I find these ones are the most common. So the first is the fear of judgment. This one came up for me personally recently when I wrote about introverts, one of my favorite topics. I wrote about how introverts make the best major gift fundraisers. What happened was I posted this on Facebook, and I actually got a lot of critical comments on this interesting. I don’t know why this fired people up a lot, but it did. And I remember when I read one of them, I could actually feel in my body, I could feel my heart starting to race, and heat was rising in my face, right? So even though logically I knew I had nothing to be afraid of, this was just . . . what was happening was a very normal human reaction to feeling judged, right?

I mentioned this specifically because, I think, a key to working with fear is to start noticing how it shows up in your body, right? So neuroanatomist. You may be familiar with Jill Bolte Taylor. She wrote a great book called “My Stroke of Insight.” You must read if you haven’t read that yet. She notes that this physiological lifespan of an emotion like fear in the body and brain tends to be about 90 seconds, right? So these sensations, the adrenaline, the heat in the face, the tightness in the throat, the rapid heartbeat, these can arise, peak, and dissipate all on their own. 

So how does fear of judgment show up in major gifts? You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but what I see very often is fundraisers feeling intimidated by wealthy donors, right? They feel intimidated by wealthy donors, and oftentimes we create stories in our heads about how we may be judged and found wanting by these donors. And my favorite antidote for this is to remember that honestly, most people are so busy thinking about themselves being judged than to think of you, right? So, everybody, very normal human reaction. No matter who you are, no matter how your net worth, we all have our own fears about being judged, right? So this is just one to watch out for here. 

Yes. Jill Bolte Taylor’s book is called “A Stroke of Insight,” I believe. I’m turning around because it’s on my bookshelf. So, yeah, if anyone’s got the title, you can go ahead and type that into the chat for folks because it is a great read. 

Okay. There we go. So fear of rejection. This has already come up today, right? Fear of rejection is a big one when it comes to major gifts. And, I think, what happens is it sometimes prevents us from ever even properly soliciting our donors. So we can get stuck in that never-ending cycle of cultivation. Who doesn’t love doing cultivation and engagement, right? But when we do get caught up in that idea of being rejected, what happens is we don’t serve ourselves or our organizations or our donors because we do tend to avoid getting to that point where we’re actually making the ask. 

I think it can also show up in some smaller ways that prevent us from taking action. For example, I think, the root of my dislike for the phone is probably a fear of rejection as well, right? So this can take practice, but what I find as we take action and do this work, despite our discomfort hearing no, actually, it does get easier. I guarantee you, it does get easier. In fact, no can be good news in many ways, especially when it comes to major gift fundraising. I think if you’re not hearing no often enough, this is sometimes a sign. It’s sometimes a sign that you’re . . . not you, but maybe your organization is not putting enough focus on this idea of identifying and qualifying prospects for your major gift programs. So no can be really good news too. So I want to make sure that we’re not kind of running away from the no because it’s very important, right? 

Yes, a no right now doesn’t mean that they might not give it a later date. That’s a very good point. Yes. I love it. A lot of people are saying no can mean not right now. So no can be good news in a lot of different ways, whether it’s not right now, whether it is a good sign that you’re doing a really great job of qualifying folks perhaps from your mid-level program into your major gift program. No is a really important part of our work. It took me a while to get to that point to recognize that, right, to realize no is not necessarily equal failure.

All right. So, finally, I want to talk a little bit about fear of scarcity. I’m just going to take a quick sip of my water. I think this one actually shows up super powerfully at the organizational level, and it can actually be one of the most toughest things to address in my experience. In fact, it’s probably at a sectoral level instead of just an organizational level. And I find that scarcity mentality is probably the number one thing that feeds into that sense that organizations have of competing with one another, you know, whether that’s a sense of competing with another organization or competing with another fundraiser for what is perceived to be a limited piece of the pie. I’ve even seen this happen internally at organizations. 

This is how silos can develop, right? Let’s say you’re a larger organization. You may have annual giving in major gifts, very common to see that siloing happen between departments in terms of a little bit of a scarcity mentality, right? “That’s my donor. That donation goes towards my goal.” And a lot of this, again, comes back to organizations, and this being an issue definitely at the organizational level, and an over-focus on hitting fundraising targets, but that might be a whole other webinar, my friends. But scarcity is a really big problem in our sector. 

And, I think, what I want to remind folks is that fundraising is not a zero-sum game. It never has been. It never will be. In fact, I think, through better fundraising, we can actually grow the pie of donors significantly, right? So look out for that fear of scarcity. See how that might be showing up at your organization. “Fundraising is a contact sport,” says Jim. All right. I like that. So okay. 

All right. So this leads me in to sharing with you what I call the major gift success framework. So this brings a lot of ideas we’ve been discussing together, and then we can take some time do a bit of a Q&A and have a conversation, which is always my favorite part of our presentation. So I want to share with you the major gift framework. This is basically, you know, bringing all the things we talked about today together, and we’re going to be looking at three things because I’ve found there are three things that tend to set the most successful major gift fundraisers apart from the rest. And, I think, these things may surprise you. They don’t involve knowing a lot of people with deep pockets, right? So they may not be what you expected. And, I think, they’re principles that every fundraiser can put to work to improve their results. 

All right. So the first success factor is focus. I hear from so many fundraisers how overwhelmed they feel, right, being pulled in so many different directions, pardon me, wearing so many different hats. But here’s the thing is the most successful fundraisers, they stay focused, right? They stay focused on high-priority activities and high-value activities, even when those activities push them out of their comfort zone. 

Now, I want to recognize, I know this is a challenge for sure, especially right now, many of you may still be working from home with small kids. But what I want to leave you with is, you know, I think, you can find even small, small pockets of time to focus. These can really add up over time. So I want to share an example I love sharing with my students. 

You think about just finding 10 minutes a day. Let’s use a simple example. Let’s say you want to read more for whatever reason, business, pleasure, personal development. You want to read more, and you commit to reading more. 10 minutes a day I’m going to focus on reading. That’s all I need to do, right? So if you think of that 10 minutes a day, it adds up over the course of a week to a whole hour. And I don’t know about you, but I’d be hard-pressed to carve out a whole hour, it sounds fabulous, just to put my feet up and read. And this is where things get even cooler. When you start adding up that hour a week over the course of a month, it adds up to four hours. You get a whole half-day of reading. 

And when power of this really shows up is when you start adding up these incremental investments over the course of a year. This adds up to the equivalent of a full work week over the course of a year, right? So how powerful is that? I want you to think. When you’re thinking about focusing, you don’t necessarily . . . it’s great. If you can find like 90 minutes or 2 hours at a time to focus on those priority activities, more power to you, find that and schedule that in. If you’re struggling to find time to focus, I want to leave you with this idea that you can actually make an incredible impact if you’re just using these incremental pieces of time because they really truly do add up over the course of time to have a huge impact.

All right. So the next success factor is having a plan, right? So the best fundraisers don’t leave their relationship-building to chance. They have a clear month-by-month plan on how they’re engaging their top donors. They also take time out to plan their week, make sure they’re blocking their time, even if it’s just like an hour or two a week to make sure that they’re taking action on their biggest fundraising priorities. 

All right. So when you have focus, and you have a plan, then that’s when you get clarity. Having clarity on your way forward is such an important part of addressing that fear that overwhelm and that uncertainty that so many of us experience when it comes to our major gifts. So focus plus plan, that gives you what a lot of us want so much, clarity, right? And it truly can be that missing ingredient if you do want to get out of that place of overwhelm, right? Having clarity on your way forward can give you a lot of relief if you are somebody who’s struggling with that for sure. 

All right. So third, we have action. And I want to share with you that none of what you’re learning today is actually going to make any difference unless you make the decision to take action on it. And again, even committing to one small manageable action can help tremendously. And guess what you get when you have a plan that you start taking action on. I think it might be one of the top things I hear that fundraisers want you to start building, confidence. 

This has been one of the biggest learnings that I’ve had in my career as well as working with my coaching and my consulting clients. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to confidence building, right? It would be great if you could take a pill and build your confidence, but it’s only through taking action that your confidence and your comfort level can grow. 

All right. Finally, when you’re focusing on the right things, and you’re taking consistent action on growing your major gifts, that’s when you get results, right? All of us are looking for results. So it’s pretty simple, but, I think, like a lot of things, simple is not the same thing as easy, right? So let’s recap quickly here, the major gift success framework, essentially pretty simple. When you’re focusing on the right things, and you have a plan to execute, that’s when you get clarity. Taking action on your plan is how you build confidence. And when you take consistent action in the right areas of focus, that’s when you get results. All right. Does that make sense to everybody? All right. I love this. So let’s have a quick look back at everything that we’ve covered so far today, and then I’ll have an ask of you.

So we talked a lot about some of the common limiting beliefs that are impacting your fundraising right now. We looked at some specific examples that tend to come up in the course of our work at our organizations. We talked about what to do when fear inevitably arises, very natural part of our work, during our work with major donors. And we looked at the major gift success framework, simple framework that every fundraiser needs to master for real major gift success. 

All right. So this leads me to a very important question. I think it’s the most important question I can ask you today. I want to know, how do you take action to implement the ideas that you learned today and not let this just become another session you attended? So I would love to hear from you. I’d love to ask you, who here has resonated with the content I’ve shared today? And I’d like to know, what’s been the most valuable thing that you’ve learned from this presentation today that you might like to take action on? 

All right. The 10-minute a day rule. That’s one of my favorites as a busy person, right? And we are going to have lots of time to answer questions. So go ahead and type in. Let me know, what has been most valuable today? Great stuff. “Building confidence.” I know that’s a huge one, right? “No is not a bad response.” Oh, I love this. You just shared the success framework with your colleagues. Wonderful. “Actions build confidence. There is no shortcut. I wish there was a pill you could take.” I’m with you. “Fear of rejection. Hearing no is not all bad.” I love that. “Clarity helps me get focused.” Yes, I love this. “The 10-minute rule.” Yeah. Adding up to an hour a week, like that always astonishes me too. 

“Giving permission to take time to learn.” I love this. “Incremental investments.” Wonderful. I love this. “Taking time to plan daily, weekly.” This is so powerful. Something that I do myself. Every Monday, I schedule up my time. “I wish I had this webinar monthly.” Well, I’m going to tell you in a second how you can keep in touch because I love talking about all of this definitely on a weekly basis. “I struggle with focus.” Okay. Great.

“Not being intimidated by wealthy donors.” I love that. It’s one of my favorite takeaways. Do not be intimidated by wealthy donors. They’re just as fearful of judgment as you are, I guarantee you. All right. “Action in all areas of discomfort expands my comfort zone.” I love this. 

All right. My friends, I’m going to go ahead. If you haven’t had a chance to type that in yet, please go ahead and do that. I love hearing what you have found helpful about this presentation. Then we’re going to have lots of time to continue our conversation and handle any questions that you have. But I wanted to leave you with this. Thank you because, you know, I know your time is tremendously valuable. So I feel really honored that you showed up to spend this time with me today. I’d love you to keep in touch. Here is all of my information and where you can find me. I’m on most social media platforms, but I am pretty active on LinkedIn. And I do, as Steven said, do lots of regular videos on topics just like this one, including mindset and imposter syndrome and self-compassion. Self-compassion for fundraisers. That was a popular one I did lately. So you know what? 

Steven, let me go ahead and turn it over to you, and I’ll make sure I can. Here see you. And we can open things up for questions. How does that sound?

Steven: That was awesome. I feel a lot better. Thank you. That was an awesome pep talk. And I was just sitting here watching the chat, and that was awesome to see folks chiming in and talking to each other, which I always love to see. Thank you all for doing that. We’ve got some questions here. Yeah. We got some good ones here. Colin was wondering how is a no helpful? You kind of mentioned this before, Emma. Is it helpful in the way that it reveals why we didn’t qualify our donors well enough? Can you unpack that a little bit because I think a couple people latched on to that one? I was curious too. 

Emma: I’d love to. I think there’s a few ways a no can be helpful. Here’s what I find in a lot of organizations. And, you know, this is getting into a bit of a tactical strategy piece. But, you know, when you’re thinking about a healthy pipeline of prospects, oftentimes as organizations grow, a really important source of those major gift prospects actually are from right within your organization, so whether or not you have . . . and I’m sure you’ll agree with me. Steven, I’m sure you see this with a lot of Bloomerang users is that folks have like hidden gems right in their donor base already, right? So you may have someone giving a more generous gift than average. You may have, you know, these long-time donors. You may if you’re a larger organization have a more formal mid-level or intermediate donor program. 

I think a really important part of our pipeline development is actually qualifying folks who aren’t yet giving a major gift to see if they are someone that we should add to our potential major donor caseload or portfolio, however you call it. In the process of qualifying donors like that, you will hear no more often than you hear yes in the sense of not everyone’s going to want a more personal one-to-one relationship with the organization. They may be perfectly happy giving the way they’re giving right now, right? So they may be perfectly happy giving by direct mail, giving online. 

So I think that’s a really good example of when hearing no is good news because, let’s say you’re qualifying donors who are giving mid-level or intermediate gifts, and you hear no, you know, “I don’t want that more personal relationship with the organization.” You’ve been successful, right? You have basically spoken with a donor. You’ve determined what they want and where they feel they most appropriately belong. And so then you can say, “Great. Qualified that donor, going to return them back to my colleagues in annual.” This is making everyone sound like a big shot. So no is not always bad news, especially when you’re qualifying folks. No is very natural, and if you’re not hearing no, you may have some like blockages in your pipeline. Does that help?

Steven: That’s great. Yeah. People are chiming in too. I know you said this, but Holly, you know, said no can mean not right now, not no forever, which is okay.

Emma: Yeah. Totally. 

Steven: There’s some good ones here. Emily was wondering, Emma, any daily practices to help combat negative energy? Is it yoga, going for a walk, that self-care stuff? What do you do? I think people are kind of curious to your experience.

Emma: Oh, my gosh, I love . . . I’m like, “Don’t even get me started. You want me to get started on this because I will.” Yeah. No. I love this. I think this is great. One thing that I found helpful that I think maybe universally helpful for folks is the idea of planning your week and time blocking. Now, some folk are like, “Oh, it’s never going to happen. I have so many demands on me from, you know, family and my boss.” 

But I really recommend getting into this practice, even if you can’t necessarily plan out or time block your whole day. But I found this has been a total game-changer for me, not only in terms of my own self-care, but in my business is just being really purposeful about actually scheduling into my calendar my top priorities. 

Here’s a great example of some of my self-care. Let’s just say I’m a terrible meditator, but nobody’s a terrible meditator. But I’m a meditator who like lapses. I don’t have a consistent daily practice. But I signed up for a weekend-long virtual meditation retreat, and I blocked that out into my calendar. That’s happening starting tomorrow. Wish me luck, everybody. But this idea of kind of planning ahead and being purposeful and like blocking your time out. I know I’m totally terrified. Thank you, Bailey. I hope it goes well too. But like it’s something that I’ve planned for a long time and just like making sure that gets into my calendar. 

Again, sounds luxurious like if you’ve got a lot of competing priorities on your time, but I find if you are thinking about this even incrementally, just being really purposeful about planning things out and getting them into your calendar. And here is the key to making this work. If you schedule something in your calendar and get to it, and you don’t feel like doing it, guess what, that’s just is what is going to happen. That was my biggest finding in terms of this idea of making time blocking useful is like I’ll sometimes block out some time to get something done. 

Let’s talk about picking up the phone, right? Let’s say you put a half an hour in your schedule, and you’re like, “I’m going to call three donors, not three o’clock.” I put in my schedule I put in half an hour. I will guarantee, you will get to three o’clock, and your brain is going to start serving up all sorts of very juicy and reasonable seeming excuses for you not to pick up that phone at three o’clock. So part of what makes this practice work is to know that that’s coming and just be prepared to address those excuses and move forward with that commitment anyway. And if that is you, you’re not alone because this is what all of our human brains will do, especially if it’s something that makes you a little bit uncomfortable. 

So I think the key here is really block that time even if it’s half an hour, even if it’s 10 minutes. Know that you will not want to do the thing that you blocked out when you get to that time unless it’s something nice, right? But if it’s something that does put you out of your comfort zone a little bit, know that you’re not going to do it, and be prepared for your brain to start raising objections and telling you all the other things you should do instead, right? That can be tremendously helpful. It can be tremendously helpful. 

Yes. Oh, thank you. That’s great. Whitney just dropped the . . . I have an article about a step-by-step process for qualifying your donors if you have few questions about that on my website. So yes. So that’s sort of a rather long answer. I do a lot of sort of blocking time management, all that kind of thing. Yes. It’s a topic I’m very passionate about.

Steven: I do the time blocking too. I put even like 5-minute things . . . 15-minute things. And people tease me, but I don’t care. It works.

Emma: No, it works, I’m telling you. Okay. So let me ask you, Steven. I’m turning the Q&A table [inaudible 00:46:35]. What do you do?

Steven: Okay. This is fair.

Emma: Does that happen to you too? Like do you get to something that you’ve blocked and find you’re like, “I don’t want to do this” and like find your brain throwing up lots of excuses? How do you manage that?

Steven: Yeah. Well, it’s funny because then I’ll end up doing a different task, and then I’ll get done with those tasks, and I’ll be kind of happy with myself, but then feel bad that I didn’t do the thing that I blocked the time off for. It’s like a weird form of procrastination. It’s like productive procrastination.

Emma: Totally. Yeah. 

Steven: And it’s weird because something gets done but maybe not what was on that time block, if that makes sense. And, I think, it all evens out at the end. But also yoga. We do yoga at Bloomerang. We have an instructor do it for the employees. If I can do yoga, any of you can do yoga, honestly. So try that. That’s my short answer too. Along the same lines, there was another good question here about . . . you know, we talked a lot about the individual, but what about if you want to broach this subject with your team? Someone here was saying that they’re a small team, the ED is kind of introverted, and maybe that’s kind of holding people back in other ways. It a good idea to broach this with your team? And if so, how would you do that, Emma?

Emma: Just talking about mindset in general with your team?

Steven: Yeah. I think so. Yeah. 

Emma: Yeah. I think so. I think it’s really important to normalize this, right? Like I’ve been fundraising for almost 25 years, and I feel like I can count the number of times on like one hand where people were actually like, “You know what? I actually feel some fear around this, or I feel just . . . ” It’s become more common to talk about this maybe in recent years, but, I think, for a lot of my fundraising career, especially when I was in a major gift specialist role at a larger shop, it’s a bit a taboo, right? It’s a bit taboo to talk about fears and to talk about imposter syndrome, but, I think, talking about it helps normalize it, right? 

So sometimes you can even just share like, “Oh, I learned something really interesting today about negativity bias,” right? It’s something our brains naturally do, and all of us do this. And, oh, really interesting, this is how it shows up as our brains are scanning for bad news, and our brains just naturally fast track that into memory. So we actually have to spend a little more time thinking about looking for positive news, right? 

I did a post recently about celebrating your accomplishments, right, because this is something people have a hard time doing. And I did, in fact, throw confetti in it. It was so much fun. If you’ve never thrown confetti before, I strongly recommend it. Although the post confetti cleanup was a nightmare, but while I threw it, it was fun. But a lot of the responses there, a), they indicated that people do have a really hard time celebrating their accomplishments, and that’s an important thing to do. But b), a few people shared some really cool practices around team meetings and actually being really purposeful about sharing accomplishments. 

So I think it was Shannon at the TELUS Foundation here in Canada who was sharing that in her team meetings . . . I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing here because it’s such a good idea . . . in her team meetings, she actually asks a bunch of regular questions, and one is can you share something that you’re most proud of that happened this week? So just one thing that you’re really proud of that you did this week. 

So I think the nice thing there is it kind of weaves into this idea of combating our natural negativity bias in that we’re being purposeful and actually building into our meeting this habit of scanning our environment for positive news, right, if we know that we’re naturally going to have that negativity bias. I want to be clear like this is not, like, positive thinking or, like, toxic positivity of, like, papering over, like, all the scary stuff. It’s more kind of bringing things back into balance because we do tend to lean really heavily towards the negativity side. 

So I kind of love that. Sorry, it’s a long story to come back to this idea of, I think, this can be really useful, team practice to talk about things like, “Negativity bias exists. This is what it is. So I have an idea. Like let’s talk about something positive that we’ve noticed this week.” Maybe we can even talk about positive thing that a colleague did so that we can start, like, developing that muscle of focusing more on some of those positive things without it being positive thinking necessarily. 

So hopefully, that’s helpful, but I love the idea of building it into sort of team meetings and talking about things. If you’re a leader especially, I think, talking about your experience and your feelings and normalizing that can be really helpful. And sometimes as leaders, we worry about being vulnerable like that, but, I think, it will be helpful for folks, right? 

So it’s a practice I’ve tried to start in terms of my videos. I’m doing a presentation at AFP Fundraising Day in Toronto next week about videos, and a good part of the presentation is how long it took me to get comfortable in front of the camera and probably how many, like, buckets of sweat that I poured off when I was first in front of the camera. So just like normalizing this I think can be really important.

Steven: Well, I love you went there with the answer because there was a question that’s been popping out at me from Emily, which is replicating success, and it seems like you answered that question by saying celebrating successes. It seems like that’s a really integral part in making future successes happen. Would you agree with my assessment there, or what else would you say to Emily about replicating success? 

Emma: I love that. Yeah. The idea of getting into the habit of celebrating success more often and, yeah, like, replicating success for sure. Here’s the thing. This is been something I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is actually, like, there are a lot of fails on the way to success, right? And this is another thing where, I think, our shops, especially major gift shops, have intolerance for failure, but truly, right, like, we give it a lot of lip service. Whereas failure is really important for innovation. But truly, like, the road to success is paved with fails, right, because it’s learning. You’re trying new things. You’re developing new skills. That’s a really important thing to talk about. We’re talking about success, but definitely celebrating success, I think, is really important in terms of replicating success but also building in room for failing, which is inevitably going to happen, and just, like, creating more comfort around that, right? 

Oh, my goodness, I keep going back to this idea, this perfectionist way that we tend to approach major gift fundraising and the amount of damage it’s doing and the amount it’s holding us back in terms of how much money we could be raising. It’s a huge, huge issue. Sorry, I just went back on my soapbox. 

Steven: It’s all right. Well, I know you got to run, Emma, and you’ve been really gracious with your time. So maybe one last question I see in here, and there’s a lot we didn’t get to. So please reach out to Emma because if for nothing else to see all those awesome blog posts and videos. I can’t believe you were at some point uncomfortable in front of a camera. It looks like you’ve been doing that for years and years.

Emma: Let me tell you that story real quick just because I’ve just been working on it. My first video, I literally because I just put this in my notes for my presentation. My first video, I had all this equipment set up. I had, like, this ring light and I had, like, a lav mic, had all this gear. I was so scared. I had a script, and it was on paper and actually like stuck it up to my ring light, and it took me 18 takes to get a 2-minute video done because I was literally. I was like, “I’ve never done this.” I’m like, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to screw it up.” So that’s a great example, I think, of this idea of like, “Okay, this is pushing out of my comfort zone, and it’s getting better and better as I go.” But I started out being, like, really awkward and uncomfortable and, like, reading a script and thinking I needed a lot of fancy equipment. But it’s taken, like, a few years to get to the point where I feel comfortable in front of the camera. So I started out in a place where it was way outside of my comfort zone. So, anyway, quick story.

Steven: Less than 20 takes. That’s not bad. I mean, it was under 20. That seems good. Well, folks are wondering, any other book recommendations or further reading as maybe a parting thought?

Emma: Oh, my gosh. So where do I even start about book recommendations? I love so many of them. Okay. What have I found really helpful around, like, book recommendations? Let me see. I’m looking back at my bookshelf here. Oh, my goodness. I read so much, and now I feel like uh, uh. I can’t come up with any of now.

Steven: I know the feeling exactly. I’ve been asked that question too.

Emma: It’s terrible. Oh, one I read recently that actually really resonated is called “Essentialism,” Greg McKeown, I think. You folks know, “Essentialism”? This one is cool because what it really talks about is the idea of focusing, there you go, focusing on, like, one thing and the fact that, like, a lot of our organizations, I see this a lot too, have shiny object syndrome. We’re trying to focus on too many things at one time. And I like this as a recent read because it just talked about valuing this idea of, like, focusing on sort of one thing and really making tons of progress on it to move the needle as opposed to giving into the shiny object syndrome and making a mill here. I think this is his quote. Like making a millimeter of progress in a million different directions.

Steven: That sounds good.

Emma: Yeah. I love reading and, like, can’t come up with any more books. Highly recommend “Scarcity” and how to stop feeling like, can I say . . . just in case you bleep me, “How to Stop Feeling like bleep,” and “Mistakes I Made at Work.” 

Steven: I’m pro-cursing. It’s okay. For any past and future guests, it’s okay.

Emma: I should have asked that before I came on. I like to have a good, really have a good swear sometimes.

Steven: That’s another good piece of advice. I mean, that can be a good stress reliever maybe. There you go. Well, Emma, I know you got to run. Dang, this was awesome. There was an Emma-shaped hole in our webinar series that has been filled. So thank you. This was awesome. 

Emma: I’m so glad. And thanks again to everybody, and stay in touch. I want to hear how things go, and yeah, I’d love to hear if you are implementing these ideas in your work. I’d really love to hear how it goes for sure.

Steven: Yeah. Definitely connect. And hopefully, we’ll see you again on another session. We got, hey, every Thursday, two weeks from now. It’s my birthday. So I got to highlight my birthday session. 

Emma: Happy birthday.

Steven: Yeah. June 10th, the big 3-7 for me, but we’re going to be talking about junior boards. And there’s going to be some opinions. People have feelings about this. So come with your opinion too, and we’re going to hash it out. I’ve been on some junior boards. I’m on a real board right now, and I’ll be chiming in. So, yeah, join us if that is an interesting topic to you. There’s some really cool sessions on our webinar page coming up here. In fact, I’m even scheduling into next year, which is kind of . . . feels a little ridiculous, but that’s okay.

Emma: Wow. I want to come back. Let’s see if things [inaudible 00:58:40] happen.

Steven: We’ll get Emma back on there, and this would be great. So thanks to all of you for hanging out, and I hope you have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a safe weekend. Stay healthy. We need all of you out there, and hopefully, we’ll see you again next week. See you all.

Emma: All right. Bye, everybody.

Steven: Bye.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.
Kristen Hay