In this webinar, Cindy Wagman will give guidance and encouragement to those who need to fundraise, but would really rather do anything but.

Full Transcript:

Steven: Here. All right, Cindy, 1:00 Eastern is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Cindy: Let’s go.

Steven: All right, awesome. Good afternoon, everybody. Good morning if you’re on the West Coast, I should say, if you’re watching the recording. Hope you’re having a good day because we’re in for a great pep talk today for fundraising. If you feel like maybe you’re not a fundraiser, not a natural fundraiser, maybe shy a little bit away from it that’s okay, because we got some good advice for you to kind of get over that.

So I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always. And just a couple of quick housekeeping items. Just want to let you all know that we are recording this conversation. And we’ll be sending out the slides and the recording later on today. So if you have to leave early, or if you maybe get interrupted, or you have an appointment, no worries, we’ll get all that good stuff to you later on today by email.

But most importantly, please feel free to chat in any questions or comments you have along the way. There’s a Q&A box, there’s a chat box, you can use either, or we’ll keep an eye on them no worries. Introduce yourself if you haven’t already, we love to know who we’re talking to. But we are going to leave some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy, don’t sit on those hands. You can also send us questions over on Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on there. But yeah, we’d love to hear from you.

If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just for context if you’re wondering what the heck is Bloomerang. Bloomerang is donor management software. So if you’re interested in that, check us out, go to our website there’s all kinds of videos. That’s kind of our core business. But we do these webinars now a couple of times a week, sometimes three times a week. We love it. So if this is your first session, hopefully, you’ll be back for more. We got some great sessions coming up, scheduled on into 2021, which is really kind of weird to think about. Time has no meaning.

Cindy: Soon.

Steven: But yeah, you’re probably feeling that as well. But don’t check out Bloomerang right now, because joining us from beautiful Toronto, Cindy Wagman. How’s it going Cindy, you doing okay?

Cindy: As you know, the world turns so we’re doing okay, yeah.

Steven: Yeah, we’re doing the best we can both at home, both got kids in the single-digit ages, but that’s okay because we were in for a really cool presentation. We’ve been talking to Cindy about this one for a while. And we were talking earlier before we began, some of you heard but this is just like in my mind the perfect time for this topic, what’s going on in the world. It’s always a good time to talk about fundraising, but particularly apt, I would say.

So if you don’t know, Cindy, check her out. She’s over at The Good Partnership, really, really cool agency consulting. They do a lot of really good work for their clients. And I think you’ll probably want to get in touch with her after you hear what she has to offer. Like I said she’s up in Toronto, very active in the fundraising community up there, speaks all the time, speaks at conferences when we can have conferences.

And also has a great podcast, you’re going to want to check out her podcast . . .

Cindy: Thank you.

Steven: “The Small Nonprofit” podcast. Small nonprofit but not small topics, not small conversations really good stuff there. In fact, it’s the number one Canadian podcast is that right, Cindy, for nonprofit?

Cindy: It is consistently number one on the iTunes charts.

Steven: That’s something because there’s a lot of podcasts like my nine-year-old son has a podcast he just started one is like [inaudible 00:03:10].

Cindy: Number one in the nonprofit category.

Steven: But still it’s crowded. That’s a good one. So subscribe to that.

Cindy: Thank you.

Steven: We’ll get you all connected there. Cindy, I’m going to stop sharing. I’ve already taken up too much of your time. I’ll let you bring up your beautiful slides.

Cindy: Amazing. All right, let me set this up.

Steven: There you go.

Cindy: You can see?

Steven: Yeah, it looks like it’s working.

Cindy: Picture? Perfect, okay.

Steven: Take it away.

Cindy: Let me just pull up . . . I always like to have the chat open while I’m looking at my slides because I try to pay attention to all your comments and questions, if I don’t get to them while I speak just ask them again at the end. I prefer the chats than the Q&A boxes, but you can use that too. And I will ask for participation. I love presenting webinars when they are live and I get to interact with all of you amazing people because this is why we do this to help you. So I’m going to ask you to participate, don’t be shy. There’s no right and wrong answer.

So thank you all for introducing yourselves in the chat. I love hearing what all of you do and where you’re joining us from. That is fantastic. Today, we’re going to talk a little bit about reluctant fundraisers. And basically, I’ve been around in this industry for a very long time, you know, upwards of almost 20 years now. And there are lots of resources out there around fundraising, right? There’s like more webinars like this, conferences, books, etc. And most of them are designed for people who choose to be fundraising, right?

They’re designed for people who say, “Okay, I’m going to be a professional fundraiser.” Or maybe I fell into it but you know, this is going to be my job. And even for some people who are professional fundraisers, sometimes they still feel really reluctant doing fundraising. And I haven’t seen that many people, if anyone, talk about what that means to be a reluctant fundraiser and how to overcome that.

So usually, this resonates really well with executive directors, board members, sometimes people in donor stewardship roles who kind of aspired to be fundraisers, but don’t really know how to get there. Or anyone who’s saddled with that responsibility of fundraising without feeling confident. All right, so let me know if that sounds like you just give me a yes. I can’t see the thumbs up in your little videos because of the webinar usually I can see. Okay, yes, Rachel. Aaron. Thank you, Krista. I wanted to say Christina but there’s no N. Allison. Excellent perfect so you’re in the right place.

And I want to know from you . . . So as Steven mentioned, I work with a lot of small organizations and I see the different struggles or certain struggles come up over and over again. So I want you to tell me which ones are relatable to you, okay. So I want you to type time in the chat if you feel like no matter what you do you don’t have the time to fundraise. Time in caps yes, time. Yes, I saw in there time lots . . . time and resources.

Time is actually the most precious resource for most organizations but we don’t treat it that way. Yeah, let me know. Type fail in the chat if you feel like you’ve tried to fundraise but it never seems to work out or be successful, right. You feel like . . . yeah, fail. You’re sort of you’ve tried all these different things, and they never really work out. Or you look at the big organizations or other organizations and you’re like, well, if we just copy them, we’re going to be successful, and then that doesn’t actually work. Fail yeah.

Who feels like fundraising is like a chore? Like the last thing you want to be spending your time doing? So type yeah last or chore either those work. Yes, I got some big exclamation marks there. OMG, oh, I can’t even keep track. Necessary evil I hear that one all the time. Yes. Gladys, yes, it can be fun. And I’m going to show everyone who doesn’t feel like it’s fun how.

All right, tell me if this one sounds familiar. I want you to type reasons in the chat if you feel like or you know that there are a million reasons why fundraising won’t work for your organization. So you’re too small no one’s heard of you. You need to rebrand, your board isn’t involved. You don’t know anyone who can give money. So this small . . . Yeah, you can even type the reasons. Board is timid, struggling to reach younger donors. Seems hard to ask at this time. Not a crisis focus organization. We’re going to talk about that. Our clients aren’t cute. I hear that one a lot. I work with a lot of social justice-based organizations. Yeah, so there’s always a reason, right? There’s always something that we wish we could change, but we just don’t, can’t.

All right, tell me about this. Every time you try to learn about fundraising, it feels like it’s designed for large organizations not the small ones like yours. And if you’re a large organization I do apologize, but I find usually you have better resource staff fundraising. Yeah, you don’t have a big development staff. Yes, lots of yes to this one. Not as well known. What is large? It’s self-defined you can . . . but if you feel like you just are left out of a lot of the traditional fundraising education doesn’t seem to apply or you have a hard time taking that information making it work in your organization. Very small, no connection to big donors, yeah.

This one is one of my favorites. I see a lot of people do the webinars, read the books, and then nothing can seem to motivate you to go from idea to implementation. It’s like there’s a mental block or a brick wall. So you can type block in the chat, if that’s you, as well. Block lots of blocks. And thank you everyone for participating. This is a great group. Fear block oh, we’re going to talk about that. Block, block, block awesome.

Okay, and then, you know, we can’t talk about fundraising right now without talking about COVID-19 and all the other things in the world. So a lot of you’re in the States, obviously, there’s a massive election coming up. The world is burning literally. There is big movements towards racial justice, which is very . . . it’s a big undertaking. So we have all these things in the world that seem urgent, and important and how can we fundraise, or how can we ask for money?

Yeah, Ann said, “I feel like our mission is less irrelevant right now.” So maybe, write relevant if you feel that way, too. Like your organization can’t really fundraise right now, because of all the other things going on in the world. Yeah, lots. That’s a really dominant one right now. All right, yeah, it feels . . . It is, but it isn’t yeah.

So all of these frustrations and feelings that you are experiencing, are all actually symptoms of being a reluctant fundraiser. So you look on the outside, you see, like all these reasons why fundraising is hard or not a good thing right now. But usually, that’s our own lens being projected onto fundraising. And all of that has to do with us just being reluctant fundraisers in the first place.

So what is a reluctant fundraiser? It’s pretty much as it sounds. You have to fundraise. Someone, I think in the chat, said necessary evil. You hear that a lot, or icky. But you have to fundraise but you’d really rather not. Like if I could give you the choice between fundraising and basically anything else in the world, you’d pick anything else in the world. You would really just rather avoid doing it. And sometimes when we are reluctant fundraisers, and we don’t address our mindset, what happens is that those underlying feelings and beliefs they lead us to feeling like we’re spinning our wheels, or you know that we need to try harder.

So here’s what happens when we go into crisis mode. We either fight by trying too many things or we get overwhelmed by all the options. And this leads to burnout or feeling like we’re spinning our wheels. So you know, we feel like we’re constantly doing this work. Like how can I not be successful fundraising? I feel like it’s taking up all of my time and mental capacity. But we’re never successful because we just keep spinning our wheels. And then we get burnt out. Or we flight, and we just avoid fundraising altogether. But that just keeps us lying awake at night, worried about the future of our organizations.

And a lot of people right now with all the things going on in the world around us they’re choosing flight because it feels safer. Karen says, “It keeps me up at night for sure.” Jackie, “I feel like I’m throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks.” And that’s exhausting. That is an exhausting way to work. Yeah, and freeze is the other one. Thank you, Alan. You know, fight, flight, and freeze. So these are all things that we have to deal with.

So here’s the thing, instead of looking outwards for solutions, like how do I write a direct appeal letter? How do I set up online fundraising? What do we do for virtual events? Which you should do at some point but before you do all those things, the work we need to do is actually internal. So I’m going to tell you what all your efforts to become a better fundraiser have been somewhat misguided. Okay, so let me explain.

I’m going to go into a little bit of neuroscience, so forgive me, but it’s important to understand how our brains work and how it relates to fundraising. So 90% to 95% of our brain’s decisions are unconscious. Meaning we’re not aware at all that our brains are even making decisions, let alone what those decisions or outcomes are. But that’s what’s going on in our brain. Our brains are designed to make those decisions really easily. So it works by simplifying complex decisions, or creating shortcuts. And thank you, Jesse, yay for neuroscience.

So I’m going to give you an example. Let’s say you . . . and you can tell me if it’s ever happened to you, okay. You start a new job okay, this is pre-COVID, maybe you’re still going into an office, but before you’re going into an office every day. So the first day of the new job you get into the car, or onto the bike, or into the bus, and you’re very aware of your route, okay, you’re following a GPS, you’re looking at all the signs. All your mental capacity and energy is focused on driving. So that is basically like a neurological pathway in your brain, and your brain is creating that new pathway for you.

But after a month on the job, the mental capacity to take that path goes down to almost nothing. And then you start listening to podcasts or audiobooks. If you’re on the bus or streetcar you’re reading, you know, all of a sudden, you don’t have to pay that much attention. I used to take the subway to work and I would like, fall asleep, like nod off, and then automatically wake up right before my stop. Because those things are going on in our brains without us paying attention, okay.

And let me tell you . . . you tell me if this has happened to you, where you know, after a while on the job, you all of a sudden have to go somewhere else that’s close to the job. So you get in your car from home, you hop on the highway or whatever your route is. And you’re like, “Oh, yeah, I’m going, you know, to this meeting or whatever else is near your office. And all of a sudden, 20 minutes later, you’re at your office, you missed your turn, or what have you. Let me know in the chat if you’ve ever had that experience. It doesn’t have to be work that’s obviously an example that everyone can relate to. But yeah, it’s like we’re on autopilot. We don’t think. “Just this week.” Yep, Patti. And so that’s exactly what happens to our brains day in and out.

Then let’s say we start a new job, what happens is we need to create that new pathway or shortcut in our brains so that it becomes easier. But every day when you get up for about 21 days, your body wants to go on that old route, okay, you’re drawn to that autopilot. And it takes 21 days of change, consistent change before those two pathways become equally dominant in your brain. But closer to 70 days for that new route to become more dominant, okay. Eve says, drove home to new house or like trying to go to a new house ended up at your old house after moving. So I’m glad this is making sense to all of you, which is fantastic.

So this is what happens to our brains. Now, what does this have to do with fundraising? There are tons of these shortcuts our brains are making when it comes to fundraising. And I saw someone mentioned heuristics earlier, that’s exactly what we’re talking about. And so, if I asked you and I did ask you, do you like fundraising, or what are some of the things you feel about fundraising? And most people I speak to when I’m giving this presentation, say, “No, I don’t like fundraising. I feel like it’s icky. Like unnecessary evil. I feel like I’m begging. I don’t know anyone who can give,” on and on and on. “I hate asking people, feel like a nag.”

So all of these things, these, you know, icky, begging, nag, these are us projecting our beliefs about fundraising onto it, and we don’t like it. Now, have any of you tried to do something you don’t like or don’t want to do, or change a habit? Maybe it’s exercise more. For me during COVID, it’s like saying no to that pint of ice cream at the end of a long, stressful day. You know, I tell myself every night I’m not going to have that pint of ice cream. I can control it. But my stress takes over and I hop on Uber Eats and order ice cream. You know, our brain telling us we should or shouldn’t do something is different than actually doing the thing, okay.

So what happens when we try to do something we don’t like? We are hardwired to avoid it, okay. So our brains have all these biases that reinforce us not doing the things that we don’t like to do. It’s a protection mechanism, you know, survival instincts, whatever you want to call it but it’s protecting ourselves. And so we have all these ways of compensating for these shortcuts our brain is making that we can call biases, that control our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. And again, as I mentioned earlier, most of the time, we’re not even aware that our brain is doing this. So we can’t spot it happening unless we pay attention.

So one example is a bias that we have when our brains seek information that reaffirms our self-beliefs, and actively suppresses information that doesn’t support our self-belief or our self-identity. So this is called congruence bias, which is basically we’re trying to prove ourselves right all the time, okay. Yes, I’m telling you that you’re lying to yourself. We all do. We all lie to ourselves all the time. So you might be in a situation with someone else and both of you walk out having completely different perspectives on what just took place. That’s because your brain is twisting the information to align with your belief system or your identity.

So if we tell ourselves that we are not fundraisers, or that we don’t like fundraising, or that we’re not good at fundraising, we’re constantly . . . our brains are constantly trying to prove ourselves right. We are self-sabotaging our success. And I’ve seen this time and time again, sometimes I’ll work with a client and they’ll tell me how big of a failure something was. And when I look at the data, and they grew 200% from the year before I say, “Wow, like, I don’t know what you’re looking at but that looks like success to me.”

So let me know in the chat if this is making sense to you. And yes, this will be sent out . . . the recording of this will be sent out after we’re done. Okay, so it’s making sense. And does this sound familiar? Do you feel like oh, yeah this is me? Like, I feel like that. I have those feelings about fundraising. Yep okay, good, Kelly, “It’s totally me.” Awesome. Fantastic.

Sadly, it’s not sad. This is literally . . . One of the things about fundraising and why I like to focus on small organizations is because they actually make up the majority of people who are responsible for fundraising in the world. So sometimes we look at all this stuff around the big shops, and it’s like, why doesn’t that work for me? Because no one’s talking about this. Yeah, oh, usually, you feel like you’re a failure because your ED doesn’t think we’re successful. I mean, that’s totally . . . I’ve seen that a lot too. Like we have these expectations based on other organizations.

All right, so let’s keep going. Lost my chat for a second. Okay, so there are tons of heuristics, or these shortcuts. We don’t have time to cover them all. But what I’ve done is, in my experience, with working with reluctant fundraisers, I’ve noticed four main archetypes of reluctant fundraisers that represent the most common mindsets we see. So I don’t have time to go through all of them today. But if you want, you can visit the and you can take a quiz to find out which one you are. But I’m going to talk about two of the four today, okay.

And then for each archetype, I’ve created an alter ego, which is basically like a new and more productive mindset that will help you retrain your mind and feel good about fundraising once and for all. Okay, so let’s go through a couple of them.

All right, so the first archetype is the perfectionist. So chances are you are running your nonprofit or you’re doing your role at your nonprofit because you’re good at the work. So maybe you’re a former frontline worker or programmer who knows how to . . . and knows the work deeply, you live and breathe it and you have all the right answers. And then all of a sudden, you moved up into a manager, executive director role where you have to fundraise. Or maybe you’re . . . I think there’s a database person, someone who loves the backend. But then you’re moving and being promoted into a frontline fundraising role. Or maybe you’re a board member who was brought on to the board because you have skillsets that the board needs, but all of a sudden, you’re expected to fundraise. And guess what? Nowhere along the path did anyone teach you how to fundraise. And so you think you’re not good at it.

So while you might not classify yourself as sort of a typical perfectionist, you may find yourself saying things like, “I just need the right plan.” Or, “If you tell me what to do, I can do it. Just point me in the right direction.” You try and learn and you take courses, you go to conferences, you show up on webinars, but you still walk away feeling this big gap, this unknown. And it feels like a gap in your knowledge and confidence, too big to comfortably move forward with so you don’t. And you have a hard time sitting in that uncomfortable space of not being great at fundraising.

So I was sitting with a friend having coffee a couple of summers ago. And we were talking about yoga. And I confessed that I wasn’t a fan and I had a hard time keeping up with the speed and trying to do all the poses correctly. And basically, by the end of class, I’d be like, knotted . . . my limbs would all be knotted and I’d be lying in a heap in the corner until everyone left. So my friend asked me who loved yoga, he asked me a pointed question I will not forget. He said, “Can you stick with being bad at something long enough to be good at it?”

And this is the question I want you to ask yourself if you’re the perfectionist. So we were not born knowing how to walk or drive a car. If any of you are trying to do homeschooling right now, you’ll know . . . My experience trying to teach my kids how to read like, these are things that take huge amounts of practice. And the only way to learn it is by doing it. So your fundraising alter ego, if you’re the perfectionist, is the doer. Instead of waiting for all the answers that you feel like are somehow magically out in the universe and you just have to do it . . . you just have to find them, you’re actually going to go out and find the answers by doing the work.

And your success will be defined by your efforts and what you learn along the way. Your greatest asset is being able to take one step at a time. And you can focus on small successes, celebrating moving forward. You know that fundraising is a skill that anyone can learn. And I promise you, I’m trying to keep track of the comments. But I did see something about great writing is a skillset not available to everyone. I think everyone can learn how to do all kinds of fundraising if we practice. And I promise you, you can all learn how to fundraise confidently, you just need to focus on doing the work over and over again.

So you if you’re the doer, you’re now a master of doing the things. And guess what, you’re the only one who knows that you’re not confident. To the outside world, you might look amazing, and everyone might praise you for actually taking the steps that they’re envious of okay. So your inclination towards action will result in ever-growing results. Internally, you’ll discover that the more you do, the easier it will become.

So as I said, we learn by doing. We learn by not being perfect. The answers are in trying and in discovering. The skills are developed through experience. And this is something everyone can do regardless of your alter ego. But if this is you, I want you to identify one thing that you’ve been meaning to do with your fundraising. You can write it down for yourself, on the chat, and I want you to just commit to doing it, to taking that action however imperfect it is. And I want you to think of something you can finish within the next week, okay. We need to focus on breaking things down into small steps, okay, that’s sort of your antidote, if you will.

Awesome, Chris, “Contact a foundation.” One of the craziest things to me . . . We’re going to talk a little bit about contacting donors is one of the things people are so intimidated by. But once you do a few of them becomes way easier. That’s actually one of the most common things I hear. “I need to send a thank you.” “I need to send a report.” Like, that should be the most important thing you do. All right, awesome. Reach out to individual donors. Send a special email to monthly donors, fantastic. Connect with a donor once a day. Love it. Amazing.

Okay, so this is the next or the other archetype we’re going to talk about today. All right, and we’re going to talk . . . this is a little more philosophical one, but I love it. And it’s very relevant right now. So we are taught to see the world in dichotomies, okay, especially in modern capitalist society. So we often are taught of like us versus them, or the haves versus the have nots, right versus wrong. You know, the way we’re trained to see the world, in our cultures and societies is often like black or white, right or wrong, right, that’s the dichotomy. And that makes it easier to understand the world a lot of the time.

But oftentimes, especially in our sector, we’re taught that money is bad, nonprofit work is good. And so for the idealist fundraising is all about dichotomies. You have a hard time connecting with or relating to people who you consider to be wealthy. Maybe they aren’t one of us, or what could you possibly have in common. And we have this belief that fundraising money comes from those people and we’re not those people. And so you’re also probably if this is your archetype, you’re also uncomfortable with the nature of philanthropy, in general, and with good reason.

You know, we have this belief around philanthropy that people who have lots of money are the ones who can and should give. But it becomes problematic, then, when they are in control around the important social change work that needs to happen in our society. So the power imbalance is deeply problematic. And you would be much more comfortable with things like government funding or grants. But the reality is those funding sources can be very unreliable, and very subject to political whims or changes in society. And so you reluctantly turn to fundraising.

I’m going to take a little quick check at the Q&A. All right, yes, the slides will be sent out. All right thanks, everyone. All right, so yeah, so you reluctantly turn to fundraising, because you need the money. But because of this power imbalance, fundraising always feels like you’re selling out, maybe a little bit, maybe a lot. You know you need to do it but the excuse that you don’t know anyone who can give comes up again and again. How are you supposed to fundraise if you have no donors? How are you supposed to find donors if you don’t know anyone who has money? Instead, you focus on government foundation grants, all those things we talked about. But you just can’t ignore fundraising anymore.

All right, so does anyone feel like this? I call this the idealist. Let me know if you feel this way. And there’s actually a lot of work in the world right now around community-centric fundraising, specifically addressing this. All right, so the good news is that fundraising doesn’t need to be about compromising your values. In fact, fundraising should be the opposite. So instead of the idealist, you are the connector, you know that fundraising is about finding people who share a connection to your work. Causes come before dollars, always.

Your job in fundraising is to find the people who care about the work you’re doing and inspire them to invest in it. And that investment can be large or small depending on their capacity. So you know, the power and money are connected. So you make sure to include opportunities for those people who have “less money” to still give, making sure they still have power and ownership over the work that affects them and their community.

You also know that there are people who have money, who do care deeply about your work, and so you cut through the noise of the haves and have nots, and you focus on who wants to enable the change that you’re working towards. You connect with people beyond wealth, you focus on your shared dreams and plans to create change. So your job is to find that shared passion and commitment. And through that, you’ll find you’re more like your donors than you think. And in fact, some people will be your donors who you didn’t suspect would be so.

So your homework again, to start to rewire your brain. I want you to do something, which is, you know, not that difficult but we always put off, which is, I want you to reach out and connect with one person who’s given to your organization in the past, but specifically someone who gave a lower dollar amount. And I want you to understand why they give and what they get out of it. Okay, I want you to connect with your donors. Like I said, this is one of the things we drag our feet with. And often we drag our feet because we think we have to reach out to their biggest donor. But I want you to reach out to the donors who are giving you $10, $20, find out why they’re giving. Can you do that? Let me know if this is an exercise that you need to do to start to feel confident with your fundraising.

Excellent. Yes. I like that. All right, excellent, perfect. Nods. Mm-hmm. Amazing. Awesome. All right. Wanda says, “I think of it as a salesperson, you go to your business try and sell your item. With a nonprofit, you’re selling what you do, you go in once and get [inaudible 00:37:13] you go twice, the third time’s a charm.” So persistency is absolutely important. But the other thing is . . . so a good salesperson knows that you’re not selling a product, you’re selling a solution to someone else’s need. And that’s true of fundraising, too. So the best salespeople and the best fundraisers are alike, and the worst fundraisers and the worst salespeople are alike.

It’s really finding what the donor or what your community needs, and how they can fulfill that through supporting your organization. Right, yes, giving others the opportunities to do good. I always think of fundraising like if you ask . . . and the more you get to know your donors, the more you will experience this. When you ask them why they give and what they get out of it. Donating is a very rewarding experience for people. And when we take that decision away from people, when we decide who has the capacity or the right to give or not give, it’s very disempowering.

And so I find this really important especially if it aligns with your mission, to engage in community-based fundraising because that’s the best way to make sure you continue to commit to engaging your community and making sure that you’re still relevant to them. All right. Did this and offered a monthly donation option and it worked. Amazing. Yes, giving donors the opportunity to invest in their community and change lives.

Awesome. Okay so the last thing I want to talk about, actually, there’s two quick things I want to talk about. The first is authenticity and I hear this one a lot. You know, we’re always taught to be ourselves but for some reason, that doesn’t translate when we think about fundraising. So oftentimes, I hear people say, “I can’t fundraise, I’m not outgoing, or I’m not extroverted.” Or “I’m not confident” or “It feels fake and salesy.” And I hear all these words, and I never hear authentic. But there’s nothing further from the truth the best fundraisers are authentic, and they bring themselves to their work.

And so I don’t want you to think about trying to be someone else when you’re fundraising. I want you to focus on trying to do it authentically. Which means your style, it’s going to be different than someone else’s style and that’s okay. You know, just sit with yourself, be comfortable with some of the awkward not knowing all the answers, and just practice and you will get better.

So there are many challenges that we have to deal with when we’re running smaller organizations or really any size organizations. But the reality is that we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to fundraising. Our beliefs about fundraising can hold us back and sabotage our efforts. Good fundraisers, they’re not born loving it. They understand their mindsets, and they know how to turn their limiting beliefs into powerful assets, as personified by those alter egos.

And each fundraising alter ego represents another powerful version of your authentic self. It leverages your beliefs into a mindset that’s more productive. It’s not about being someone else. It’s about finding your authentic approach that’s comfortable and achievable.

All right, here’s the last thing I want to talk about. There’s no right answer. I get asked all the time tons of questions about fundraising, will this work for us? What’s the best strategy? How do I do this? You know, should I do this? And I can tell you 99.9% of the time, the answer is that it depends. There’s no one size fits all answer, okay. The right answer for you will depend on a number of factors.

And once you understand this, you can start to understand how to make good fundraising decisions. Most of the time, I see organizations make bad fundraising decisions. So if you can learn how to make good ones, you can save yourself time, energy, maybe even a few gray hairs. But more importantly, you’re going to raise more money doing fewer things.

So fundraising strategies or the fundraising strategies that you should be focused on, have nothing to do with what you see other organizations doing around you. Yes, you can research best practices and all that kind of stuff. But what you decide to actually invest your time and energy into should be based on where you are today. What donors do you currently have? What is your network like? What is your mission? What are your resources?

I wish there was a fundraising skeleton key that I could just give you an unlock all the fundraising potential. I wish there was a magic wand that I can wave and help make all your organization’s ambitions true. I would also be rich if I had those things, but we don’t, and there isn’t. So fundraising needs to be aligned and I’m going to give you a quick example of a call I had today with a person I know who happens to be a fundraiser in an organization.

And he called and he said, “You know, we’re preparing our year-end membership drive, and my boss really wants to send the letter that we send every year, same as always, but I want to do email. What’s the right answer?” And it depends who is going to? How do they typically respond? Like if they’re already responding online maybe try email. You know, there are so many factors that go into it. His considerations were also staffing, like they I think, as a team stuff the envelopes to go out and there’s no one in the office. So all of those factors are really important to consider when you think about your fundraising decisions. Does that make sense?

Let me know in the chat with a yes or no or a question. Awesome. And there’s so many areas like events, virtual events right now, should we be doing it? You know, how do we be successful? You know, first analyze is this right for us? Is this right for our community? What do we need to be focused on? Okay.

I could talk forever and ever about all of this. But when you align your fundraising strategies like the effort just becomes way less, it’s a relief, you know, you can . . . it’s like taking it off your shoulders. You’ll raise more money with less effort and you will be much more laser-focused in your doing, okay.

I have some time for questions before I do, I do want to let you know if any of this is resonating with you, if this is stuff that you’re like, yes, this is what I need to focus on before I start working on the tactics before I start doing all the things. We teach this in a program called Flipside Fundraising and I have scholarships open right now. So you can access this learning for free, it’s a full in-depth program. I’m not going to tell you so much about it right now, because that’s not why you’re here today. But if you want more, definitely apply for the scholarship. And it’s like a really quick application because I know you have lots of things going on.

I’m going to come to the questions and I’m going to stop my share. And here we go. So perfect. Let’s see, yeah, I see a couple of questions. Here we go. Do you have any specific advice or peer-to-peer fundraiser event? In this case, a marathon was canceled. It depends. I don’t mean to be glib, but really, again, like who . . . So what I would do, I’ll tell you what I would do to find out how to uncover the right answer.

So first of all, who was instrumental in making that marathon a success? Do you have top fundraisers or people who were the ones who were the most engaged and mobilized? I would go back to them and have a conversation, ask for 30 minutes of their time, find out where they are, what’s going on in their minds, what are they worried about? What are they thinking about? You need champions for peer-to-peer events and so you need to start by engaging those champions. And that’s how you’re going to start to get to the answer of what you should be looking at right now. Does that make sense?

Let’s see examples of some . . . oh, wait open. Okay, someone asked for the link for the scholarship which we can put in a second. What’s the best way to find a sponsor who will match monies raised with fundraising or activity? Start with your network. Start with past donors, if you have any. You know, again, there’s no good or easy solution to any of this. It’s finding the people who are excited. Usually, there’s some people who want to see you be successful as an organization. People like leveraged gifts so I typically would start with people who’ve given in the past. Actually, for most things that’s your best potential donors and their networks.

And it depends on the work that you’re doing, right. You might have a cause that resonates particularly with a company for their marketing. So there’s so many ways to answer that question. But start with, you know, who cares about your work, who’s engaged, and who wants to see you be successful.

And Jack, yes, you can apply for the scholarship. Also, if you win the scholarship, it’s for your whole organization. I encourage people to share the login with the rest of their colleagues and board because I want all of you to learn how to fundraise.

How do I get people to donate for purchasing land? Okay, so here’s a really common type of question, which is like we have a need, how do I get people to fund that need? What I want you to do is go out and engage with your donors and find out why they care about this need, okay? So you want to understand what language they use, how they understand it, let your donors drive that case, or what the ask looks like. The more you can understand and engage with them about why they would want to support it, then you come back and you just flip that back around an ask.

So I’ll give you an example. I was working on a capital campaign for a documentary cinema. This is very unusual, there’s like three in the world. And so when I started, I started meeting with past donors or potential donors, and I asked them why they cared about the organization. What did they want to see from the organization in the future? What were they excited about? If we did have to expand the cinema, which was what the capital campaign was for, why would they care about it? And they started feeding me all this information.

That is the information that turned into our case for support, it turned into the ask, it turned into naming opportunities. You know, the more you engage the people who you want to ask for support, the more likely they will give you a very clear path on how to get that support.

Okay, I can’t approach people at all, panic attack. So try fundraising, right, that’s a really common one. And again, don’t ask for money outright. So sometimes you can build relationships in person and ask for money through a letter and email and that actually works. I know everyone, and you know, we’re all taught that face-to-face fundraising is most effective for all kinds of gifts but especially major gifts. I’ve had lots of high-level donors give through email but you build a relationship offline, like in person.

So again, start where you’re comfortable. Start by not asking but actually engaging with people and see if you can, you know, understand why they give. The more you understand what their motivations are, what they get out of it, the easier it will be to ask. And you can have a conversation and follow up with an ask by email or mail, and that’s totally fine. I know everyone’s going to like . . . all the fundraising experts that are going to say, “No, no, that’s not the right way.” But start where you are, start with baby steps. You’re never going to get to the point you’re going to do a face-to-face ask if you can’t at least even have a conversation with a donor or potential donor.

All right, do you ask for specific amounts when it’s not really clear as to how that specific amount will make a difference in the mental health organization? Depends how you’re asking and there’s so many factors. So I would look at are you asking by email, mail, in person, at an event? Like it depends what all those things are. Again, all the fundraising experts are going to say like tie a specific amount to a specific impact. And yes, that’s true but so many organizations I know have a hard time doing that.

So what I would say and this is sort of a common answer, don’t let the details get in the way of doing, okay, done is better than perfect. So if you feel like you can’t tackle that right now, get your ask out. Maybe you’ll raise more money, maybe you’ll raise less money, who knows but it’s better than not asking. And the more you can engage and understand why your donors give, the more you can start to come back to that question and say, okay, well, I know our donors really like having this specific impact, so maybe I can tie dollars to that. And maybe you can’t and that’s okay.

All right, there’s so . . . okay so many questions. What are some of the best ways to keep donors and/or campaign motivated? It depends. Sorry, you’re going to hate me by the end of this. Again, like understand what your donors . . . where they are right now? What are they worried about? Where do they want to be engaged? Some organizations’ donors really want virtual stuff, some want personal touches. You know, it’s always . . . I always say like, if you can err on the side of being grateful and engaging people, and do something that’s meaningful to your mission and meaningful to your donors.

I always think of fundraising as matchmaking where you’re bringing the mission and your work together with your donors and finding that intersection. So it depends on your cause, on your donors, and all those good things. Does that . . . Okay, I’m like behind in these things. I hope that makes sense.

Okay, there are . . . I’m going to come out of the Q&A back into the chat and try . . . wondering why my question was . . . Oh, Alex, your question was only . . . I don’t know why it was dismissed other than we’re just trying to stay on top of everything. So by not being a charity and starting to ask for support via donations. Okay, you don’t have to be a charity to fundraise. What’s going on with movements like Black Lives Matters, which is not Black Lives Matter, which isn’t necessarily a charity, lots of people are raising money in support of communities, individuals, and families. They’re not charities.

Fundraising is not about a tax receipt. People don’t give for tax receipts. Sure, it’s a nice bonus but they give because they’re fired up, they’re inspired, and they want to create change. So if you can do that you can raise money.

All right, and come back to the Q&A. Sorry, everyone I’m trying to go . . . Donor surveys for understanding our donor’s vision interests. Yes, donor surveys are great but they do not replace conversations. So listening and asking really good questions will get you way further than . . . even like, two or three people will get you more information than a survey from 200 people. So combine them.

All right, okay. Oh, sorry I’m like, Wanda, I don’t understand your question because you’re talking to someone else. All right, how do you respond when your board does not want to ask people for money now because of COVID, and some people not having jobs right now? So just because you have a job doesn’t mean you’re not going to give. People are giving now despite their work, you know, under all conditions.

So I am going to answer this two ways, because there’s two different things you could be talking about. One is your board themselves asking for money from people they know. Listen, we all want our boards to fundraise and that very rarely happens in small organizations. Move on, focus on areas where you’re going to be successful right now. Or have them watch this webinar and think about their own mindset.

But if your board is stopping your organization from asking your donors to give, that’s a much different conversation. And that’s, you know, neglecting their fiduciary responsibility. So I think like, there’s lots of evidence and Steven, maybe you guys even have some case studies. I mean, we were talking before. All of our clients right now are raising more money than they did last year. You know, organizations who are actively fundraising are being successful. So the evidence is to the contrary, people are still giving and so I would focus on that.

Okay, but again, also, board members sometimes have like different evidence they need to make decisions. So sometimes they need facts, sometimes they need mindset, you know, it’s a combination of those. So it’s very specific, but understanding how your board how they work will also help answer that.

All right, we have a historic preservation capital campaign but the economic development which will follow is as important, but . . . okay, I’m not sure what the question is, [Collier 00:56:53]. If you could maybe rephrase that, or type it again. But what I will say if I understand kind of what you’re getting at, capital campaigns sometimes feel like they’re pulling away from annual funds which can be true. But often, if you do them well, and engage your donors, it could lead to an increased annual fund after the campaign. However, you can absolutely ask your donors to contribute to both throughout the campaign. That’s reasonable. I’ve done that and with minimal impact on an annual campaign.

All right, I don’t know where to look. I’m going to keep in the Q&A box. We only have about two minutes left. Steven, cut me off at any time if you want to wrap things up. Okay, one of the biggest fears is getting no when you ask for money. So what are the remedies to overcoming this? Okay, so that’s actually one of the archetypes I didn’t talk about today is this fear of rejection. Same thing, go out and engage with your donors, understand . . . Like so much of fundraising is not about the ask. You need to build the relationships and engage with people.

And what I usually do, I call them micro yeses, is where I build a relationship and I get these many commitments to keep moving forward. So for example, like a can we meet great, yes. Usually, I’m very specific of why I want to meet. Can I get your feedback? Can I get to know you? I want to learn why you gave. And then I stick to that. So what I say I follow through on so there’s a sense of trust.

And then I ask questions as we get to build a relationship and I start to understand, you know, what they’re interested in, what are they excited about. And you sort of, like course, correct to figure out what the right ask is. And then when it comes . . . So usually, when you do the ask in the end, you know, you’re asking for something meaningful, that resonates with them that they’re excited about.

And then I always say when I want to book that meeting, “Can I come and talk to you about an ask?” And again, because I’ve built that trust, where I say, I’m going to do something and follow through a), they’re not surprised. No one likes to be like, blindsided with an ask. I say like, “Hey, now it’s time to talk, I want to talk to you about a gift towards the thing that you’ve already told me you really care about.” And usually, if the answer to that is yes, then your conversation is going to be a positive one. But if they say no, it’s not quite the same level of rejection. So hopefully that helps.

All right, now we are truly out of time. I have a few more minutes, Steven. I don’t know about you. And people please reach out to me if you have other questions, social media The Good Partnership or I love talking. But you probably will see a pattern in my answers which is it all depends.

Steven: It’s not a cop-out. I’m a big fan of, “It all depends,” so no worries. This is awesome Cindy. And that’s real generous of you if people haven’t gotten their question answered, I know we tried to get to a lot. But yeah, definitely follow Cindy, check out her podcast. We’ll link to that when we send out the slides and the recording. This was truly a pep talk. This was awesome, Cindy. Thank you.

Cindy: You’re very welcome. And I know sometimes we’re looking for easy answers. We want the definitive solution. But so much of the time that is a mask or like hiding the fact that we actually need to work on our mindset. You know, our focus on those easy solutions means we’re trying to do all the work, but figure out how to change our mindset about it.

Steven: Not to say anymore.

Cindy: Take a look inside really ask yourself, “Am I trying to rush to solutions, or do I need to do the legwork to get to figure out my own belief, understand our donors, make those meaningful connections?” because that’s really where things start to blossom.

Steven: I love it much-needed conversation in this day and age. This was awesome thanks for doing this, Cindy.

Cindy: You’re very welcome.

Steven: And we got some great sessions coming up. Actually, this week, we got one on Thursday. I love those. I love doing these so I’m pilling up the schedule with some great speakers just like today’s. Speaking of COVID-19, there’s actually a lot of people having success. We were talking about that earlier. But my buddy, Daryl Upsall from Spain, we’re going to get an international look. He’s been helping out a lot of NGOs over in Europe. And they got hit, you know, a little bit before we did here in the U.S. and Canada so he’s got a couple of months jumpstart on some success stories over there that he’s going to share. And it’s always good to get a little bit of an international take on things.

So check that out Thursday morning. I know it’s early for some of the West Coast people but Daryl is in Spain so we’re trying to be respectful of his time and not make it too late on him. But again, we’ll be recording it as always if you can’t make it that early, I definitely understand. But check it out, it’s going to be a good talk. Daryl is a buddy of mine. We’ve co-presented before. It’ll be a good one.

So check out the scholarship. Cindy just put the link in there in the chat. And definitely reach out to her because she’s obviously a wealth of knowledge. And if you’re a small shop, you know, you might want to work with her too. So yeah, I’ll put in a little plug. But this was fun. Thanks to all of you for hanging out for an hour or so today. Like I said, look for an email from me later on. And hopefully, we see again Thursday but if not, have a good rest of your week. Stay healthy, stay safe, we all need you out there. We’re thinking of you. And we will talk to you again soon. Bye.

Cindy: Bye, everyone.

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.