I travel all over the country training nonprofit professionals and their boards to fundraise. It’s pretty amazing! I get to meet passionate, dedicated people just like you who are making their part of the world a better place.
Unlike most people I meet, I absolutely love fundraising.
What’s not to love? Getting to know people on a deep level, finding out how they want to change the world and then bringing them opportunities to do just that.
The thought of asking someone else for money gives most people sweaty palms or a racing heart. Asking someone for money can feel frightening and intimidating. But you can’t fundraise scared. Sitting down with someone you admire to get to know them, discover their greatest challenges, unfulfilled dreams and what brings their life meaning sounds like time well spent (and a lot of fun)!
The myth of asking for money is that we are taking something away from someone, or “hitting them up.” The truth is people like to give! Giving is the neurological equivalent of winning the lottery. When we give we experience a natural rush of endorphins and oxytocin. On top of lighting up our brain’s pleasure centers it gives our lives meaning and purpose.
But if giving feels so good, why we are so terrified of asking? You can’t fundraise scared. Here are some tips to quell your nerves so you can confidently ask for that gift.
10 Facts + Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Fundraising
1. First and foremost, make your own stretch gift to the project.
Not only will it remind you how good it feels to give, it also allows you to invite prospects to join you in contributing to the cause. You can’t legitimately ask anyone else to give if you have not given yourself.
2. Fake it until you make it.
Feed yourself the good stuff! Visualize success. Practice asking. Start with something you know you can get – a water refill at a restaurant for example. Next try returning a dish and asking if they’ll take it from your bill. Finally, ask for something you know you won’t get. These micro-asks can boost your confidence.
For another confidence boost look no further than striking a powerful stance or pose. Your body language doesn’t just effect the way people perceive you, it can effect our own self confidence. In one of the most watched Ted talks of all time social psychologist Amy Cuddy argues that we can reduce stress levels and boost our self-confidence by assuming a variety of “power poses” such as the wonder woman pose with our feet hip width apart and our hands on our hips.
3. Remember that you are JUST trying to make the world a better place.
There’s no profession more honorable than that!
4. Know that givers give – let go of any guilt.
You are brilliant and amazing, but you will never trick anyone into giving money to you if they don’t truly want to give. Let yourself of the hook if you’re feeling like people won’t be able to say no to you.
5. Know that giving is good for your health.
The most comprehensive study on American giving habits showed generosity appears to coincide with happiness, good health, avoidance of depression, a sense of purpose in life, and a sense of personal growth. Donors are in fact happier than the rest of the population – they are 43% more likely to say they are “very happy” than non-donors. Proof that money CAN buy happiness if you spend it on others!
6. Remember that being asked is a welcome part of donor’s lives and makes donors feel important.
Do you remember the first time you were invited to make a major gift? I do. I was just starting out in my career and had joined the board of a children’s museum. I remember thinking, “Wow, they really think I have my *&#$ together!”
7. If they take your visit, there’s an 85% they’ll make a gift.
This stat is from the late, great Jerry Panas. People think asking is the hard part in fundraising, but the hard part is getting the visit. It can easily take 7 – 10 tries to get a visit but once you do you have a high likelihood of securing the gift. Need more help getting your foot in the door? Grab this guide full of creative approaches to get the visit (and nail the ask).
8. Rehearse! Script the visit and rehearse it with a colleague.
Practice makes perfect. Buddy up with a coworker and have them throw you a few “curve balls” so you can practice how to respond. Practice overcoming objections to getting the visit as well as objections to making the gift. Bonus points if you record yourself with your mobile device to check your body language!
9. Do your homework and learn everything you can about the donor you are calling on.
Learning about their background, career, hobbies and passions isn’t creepy it shows respect for them and their time. It also gives you fertile ground to quickly build rapport, ask great discovery questions and connect their passions to your cause. Want help? Grab this cheat sheet of 25 “best of” discovery questions to quickly build rapport with donors.
10. Know that your job is NOT to impress donors with how great you or your organization is. Your job is to let donors impress you.
The biggest mistake I see even seasoned fundraisers make on an ask is to talk too much about how great the organization is. The donor can be sitting there thinking, “Why do they need me? They’re doing so well!” They want their wallet to change a fate. Without problems to solve, donors don’t have anything to do. Your goal is not to impress your donors but to let them impress you. Aim to talk 25% of the time and listen 75%.
Even great fundraisers get butterflies in their stomach before an ask. Rehearse ahead of time and visualize success. The best fundraisers are grateful, curious and thoughtful. No matter what the outcome, thank them for their time and get a commitment to something – whether it’s the gift or a date for another visit. There’s no need to fundraise scared anymore.
If we want donors to understand us, we have to start by understanding them.
This eBook will review some great donor discovery steps, best practices, and questions you should ask to build rapport with and understand your donors.