This article is about taming your fundraising fears. To explain, you’re getting an excerpt from my latest book, The ROI Mindset: How to Raise More Money with the Budget You Have.
“Lydia’s stomach was churning. She hated this part of being an executive director—asking people for money. Yet it had to be done. Her legal services agency couldn’t survive without the influx of outside funds. She sighed as she fretted about the upcoming lunch meeting she had with the Davis’. How would she ever get through this?”
Tame Your Fundraising Fears
“Many of us have grown up learning not to talk about money. We were taught money was a taboo subject, especially asking someone else about their personal finances. So, when it comes to asking for money, we are necessarily uncomfortable. And big time squeamish when we have to meet with donors. How can we help calm our fears and fearlessly talk to others about money?”
Focus on Your Mission
“The end goal is mission advancement, not money for money’s sake. So, when you meet with donors, take the focus off money you want to raise and onto the impact your nonprofit makes. Instead of framing the conversation around money, frame it around your agency’s mission and your passion for it. Focus on telling your story: why you got involved, why you stay involved, and why you increased your involvement. Let your eyes shine with excitement. Then invite them to share their story with you.”
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
“Another practice that makes it more comfortable to talk about money is to keep your eye on the prize. Dream about how many lives your organization can change. Think about the impact you and your donors have made so far and how much more your organization can accomplish with more people on board. Ask the person to whom you’re talking to join you on the road to success.”
Acknowledge and Deal with Your Feelings
“Eventually, though, you come to a point in the conversation when it’s to ask for a donation. And that point in time may be scary. How do you overcome your fears?
Acknowledge and face your feelings. When you label your emotions and allow yourself to express them, they become manageable. You feel a greater sense of control and power. Use those feelings of power and control to your advantage.
You can also reframe your feelings, viewing your nervousness as your mind’s way of revving you up for the situation. The adrenaline rush can be seen as either positive or negative. See it as positive.
If you are intimidated, it is important to view the donor as a human who engages in the same daily personal care tasks that you do. Put the person on an even footing with you. See them as your equal.
Preparation helps too. Don’t go in by the seat of your pants. Do your research. Get to know your donor. Make them more familiar than unknown.
If you fear the worst, challenge your thoughts. Ask yourself how likely it is that whatever terrible situation you’re thinking of will happen. Is what you’re imagining a rational thought? If it is, what’s the worst result that can happen? They say, ‘No?’ If they do say no, you’re not going to be any worse off than you are now. Can you handle that?”
“Before you go into an important donor meeting, de-stress. Listen to music, get some fresh air, or let your thoughts flow and write about the upcoming encounter. Research has shown that doing one or more of these things will reduce your stress level.
Deep breathing is one of the most effective methods for reducing edginess. When you feel yourself tensing up, take a few deep breaths in and out and then breathe normally. The deep breaths will help calm you and slow you down.
You can also engage in stress-relief exercises, relaxing the all the muscles in your body. One practice I have found helpful is to tense my muscles for 10 seconds, close my eyes, take deep breaths, and then concentrate on relaxing single muscle groups one at a time until I am fully relaxed.
Another practice that may help you loosen up is to visualize yourself as calm. See yourself as you want to be in your mind’s eye. Impress your brain with your desired self-image. Let positive thoughts lead your thinking.
To be perceived as comfortable during the conversation, sit up straight but not too rigidly. Drop your shoulders. Don’t tap your foot or wring your hands. Speak slowly and maintain eye contact. Focus on the speaker, not yourself.
If you do tense up while you’re talking, ask a question. Put the focus on them, taking it off you and giving you time to recoup and relax.
Finally, be yourself. Know that you’re okay just the way you are. Above all, people appreciate honest, genuine interactions. And you do that by being you.”
How Lydia Overcame Her Fundraising Fears
“Lydia took a few deep breaths. She decided she would go for a short walk around the block before she left for lunch. While on her walk, she started to analyze her situation. How prepared for the conversation was she? Pretty prepared, she thought. She had done her research and had an idea of the Davis’ capacity to give what she was going to ask from them. She knew some of the other causes they gave to. She wasn’t relying on a wish or hunch. She knew her stuff.
She also thought about the worst that could happen. The worst that could happen is they would say no. If that happened, no harm, no foul. The ensuing ask really wasn’t much of a risk.
She headed to her car and got in. As she was driving, she went over some of the questions she wanted to ask. And visualized getting engaged responses. She pictured the meeting going well and smiled. She was going to be okay.”
Resource for Making the Ask
Of course, after you quell the butterflies in your stomach, you still must make the ask. Get my expert advice on how in my new book The ROI Mindset: How to Raise More Money with the Budget You Have.