Are you afraid of fundraising?
How about your board – when it’s time to raise money, do they run away?
As a fundraising trainer and consultant, this is my biggest challenge: many people are frightened of fundraising.
If you ignore or avoid this “fear factor” – especially during your year-end fundraising push – you’ll miss multiple opportunities to raise money. You might even fall short of your financial goals.
In today’s post – just in time for Halloween! – we’re outlining two exercises from our book, Train Your Board (and Everyone Else) to Raise Money. Use these exercises to overcome fundraising fear and go boldly where you and your organization needs to go.
Click here for a PDF of these two exercises.
What Are We Afraid Of?
If memory serves, I learned this one from author and trainer Kim Klein at least twenty years ago. It remains a classic exercise because it demonstrates that most of our fears about fundraising – which feel real and powerful – are actually irrational.
First, ask participants to tell you what makes them nervous or anxious about fundraising. Write as many as possible on the flip chart. The list will contain many items, including:
- Fear of rejection
- Not knowing enough; “I might be asked a question I can’t answer”
- Not knowing the right way to do it
- Not knowing exactly what to say
- Not knowing if I’ll be successful
- They won’t want to talk to me
- They won’t return my calls
- Don’t want to bring money into our relationship
- Might impose on people who are unable or unwilling to give
Once you have this quick list, ask the group what other aspects of their lives have created similar fears. Most often people will talk about dating, or perhaps asking their employer for a promotion or a raise. Ask them how they overcame those fears.
Debrief the exercise using the following questions:
- Which item on our list is the biggest barrier for you personally? Why?
- What steps might you take to overcome that barrier?
Conclude the discussion by seeking suggestions about how to move forward and ask anyway, despite the natural anxiety that accompanies the process.
Why People Give
This is one of my go-to exercises, because it emphasizes the joy and satisfaction that comes from giving. It flips the negative metaphors about fundraising – for example, that we’re imposing on people – into something positive – here’s an opportunity to feel good by donating and participating in this important work.
Start by asking your colleagues to form small groups of three to five people to talk about the most meaningful gifts they ever made, and why they did so.
After about five minutes, reconvene the large group. Gather their responses by asking, “Why do you give?”
You’ll hear a variety of reasons: I believe in the cause, see a need, want to help, giving expresses my values, family tradition, honor someone, tax break. Record these answers on the flip chart. Make a point to share with the group the most important reasons people give:
- They were asked
- They were asked by somebody they know; in other words, the relationship between the giver and the asker
- They feel connected to the work or know someone who has benefited from it
- They want to participate and support the work – and making a donation is an easy way to participate
To wrap up the exercise, introduce the idea of the value for value exchange. In most monetary transactions, the buyer receives something tangible, like a haircut or a bag of groceries. When people give to nonprofits, the exchange is more subtle but also more powerful. Their generosity helps build a stronger community. They feel good about themselves and see value in the efforts made possible by their support.
To debrief this exercise, use the following questions.
- When you think about the organizations you support, how good a job do they do at helping you remember why you give? How could they do better?
- How can we do a better job with our donors?
The antidote to fear is education
We humans are often afraid of things we don’t know or don’t understand.
You can address this fear by teaching your board (and everyone else) how fundraising works, what motivates donors, etc.
By making fundraising less mysterious, you can reduce the fear factor – and people will be more likely to participate.