Fundraising is a noble profession. As a fundraiser you meet some of the best people around. You provide people with information and opportunities that allow them to pursue things that are important to them: “things” that really can’t be bought. You can’t buy an end to world hunger, gun violence, AIDS or domestic violence: you have to give. When you ask people to give you bring people together with projects, programs and institutions that align with their beliefs. You help people realize some of their highest aspirations.
Money doesn’t change the world: it funds organizations and institutions who bring together people who change the world. Giving – and knowing which organizations to give to – is vitally important. And that’s where fundraisers come in. Whether as a professional or a volunteer, fundraisers are bringing together people, resources and organizations so that visions can become reality.
Fundraising is far from begging and yet that is the message too many of us have internalized. We hesitate to ask others to give to nonprofits we believe in. We think of ourselves as “beggars” and unconsciously teach our children that fundraising is begging. Think about the language we use: “Oh, they’re always begging for money.” Or, “I can’t even go to church without all that begging.” Or, “he’s always trying to get his hand in my pocket.”
These negative messages keep us from feeling confident when inviting others to join us in giving. If you feel negative it is hard to inspire others. Sometimes the negativity comes from not knowing how to answer questions people may ask. That can be fixed – read up on the organization and ask for support in role playing.
Here are some other considerations. Maybe you feel insecure asking for money for yourself and you project that onto soliciting gifts for a nonprofit. Maybe you feel uncomfortable talking about money, period. The feeling of “begging” can arise when soliciting people who are not your peers. That can put you in a “one down” position, and bring up feelings of powerlessness or resentment. To cure this, we suggest asking people who are of similar financial means to you.
Maybe you are afraid of rejection. We have a cure for that too: remember, if someone doesn’t give they are not rejecting you. They may not have the money. Or, your project may not be the one they want to give to. People have different priorities. Finally, you may not want to ask because then you will feel obligated to “return the favor” and you don’t want to be beholden to anyone. These are all reasonable fears. But they can be overcome. Look at what’s driving your behavior and learn how to overcome your fears and become a driving force in fundraising.
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Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.