I recently delivered a fundraising training workshop for the board of directors of a start-up nonprofit organization called San Francisco Village. I’ve done plenty of fundraising trainings in the past, so I’m a veteran of how to present this information to those who are not familiar with fundraising.
What I find each time I deliver the workshop is that there is an unmistakable pattern. Each time, everybody in the room starts off grim, tense. Their lips are pressed tightly together and their shoulders hover somewhere near their ears. I’m talking about fundraising, people! Wouldn’t you be tense, too?
But what I find each time is that, although everyone starts off tense and fearful because they are about to enter a world that they do not understand and which makes them scared, by the time the workshop is over, they are energized, excited, and raring to go.
So what happens? Well, that’s the unmistakable pattern I was talking about. They start off tense. I introduce them to the basic concepts of individual donor fundraising. They stay tense. I start talking about why they are involved in this organization. They seem to open up a crack. And then we go through an exercise where we collect “message points” for why this organization is worth supporting, and then we break into groups and role play actual fundraising. And by the time we are done with this, they are levitating out of their seats and on fire. It happens every time.
So why is this so? Because there are some key things you can do to overcome your fear of fundraising. This is true whether you are volunteering for a nonprofit or raising money for a film.
First, connect with your passion — why are you involved? Is this story personal? Have you been touched by this issue? Do you know someone who has? Why do you want to do something about it? You are as much a part of the story as the story itself.
Second, collect your message points — create a list of reasons why this cause is worth supporting. How will this work change the world and make it a better place? What makes this organization or this film unique, effective, exciting?
Third, practice talking about your passion — talk with your friends and colleagues. Role play. Test the messaging and the pitch before you go out and try it on somebody outside your circle.
Fourth, take a risk and see what happens — what could really go wrong if you ask somebody for support? They might say no? Tragedy! If they say no, you need to find out why, and then work with them to get to a yes. If you think it’s too early to ask, just ask. You might be surprised by a yes.
Fifth, don’t think it ends with the ask — all fundraising begins with a relationship, and it continues with a relationship. You don’t show up and ask a stranger for money and then disappear into the sunset. You stick with that person, through rain or shine, thick or thin, like bosom buddies. If they give you money, your relationship responsibilities have just begun.
If you follow this advice, your fears will shrink, and your success will increase.
Try it at home!
In fundraising solidarity,
(Photo by Petr Kratochvil)