Is fundraising scary?
I recently posed that question to a group I was training. We were having some fun with a true and false game.
Most of the questions were pretty easy to answer. This one was more nuanced.
Fundraising is sometimes scary.
But it’s almost always needed. So if you’re not doing as well as you’d like, or if you’re new to the work, you might find some of these fears familiar.
Fear of asking
This fear is not silly at all. Butterflies are understandable when you’re about to make a face to face ask.
I get it. I think many fundraisers still get nervous about personal asks. How to get through it anyway?
Preparation. Know your donor. Know what motivates them. Know exactly why you’re asking for help. Be ready for every question you can think of.
Be so ready that once you’re with your donor all of that is automatic.
Because you’ll feel more comfortable and you’ll relate better to your donor if you focus entirely on them when you talk.
Understand that the donor might also be nervous. They’re not quite sure how much money you will ask for. They don’t know exactly how they can say no without embarrassment. If you can be calm, and warm and friendly, you will both have a better experience.
Fear of needing help
We are in a helping field. Our organizations aren’t meant to work without contributions. Donors are part of the plan.
So if you feel guilty for needing help or you think you’re failing to do the job well enough yourself – then you’re not just wrong. You’re cheating donors of the opportunity to be involved in your mission.
Your donors might not be able to dedicate themselves to the mission every day. But they still want to help. Let them. Invite them in.
And remember that the rewards of giving aren’t just for your organizations. Donors gain something important, too. The feeling they matter. They feeling they’ve done something good.
You need help. You have to ask if you want to get it.
Confusion about where to start
There are so many ways to seek support for your organization. How do you know what’s best?
And how do you start doing what’s best?
It might feel like seeking grants or holding events is the easiest way to go. And for some organizations, these work well.
But for most organizations, individuals are the backbone of their funding. And the more people who are persuaded your mission matters, the stronger you’ll be.
Think about it: if you depend on a few large grants or an annual gala, any loss is tremendous. It could be life-threatening for your organization.
Individuals will also come and go.
But you need to attract enough donors. Then you need to work twice as hard to keep them. These wonderful people will stick with you for years if you treat them right. They’ll cushion you when the economy tanks. They’ll widen your circle of friends by introducing other people to your work.
Not enough money to invest in fundraising
When you don’t prioritize fundraising, you’re at the start of a nasty downward spiral.
It’s really that simple.
Can you find ways to do a good job with less money? To some extent, yes. You’ll be trading staff time for that money, though.
Invest in individual giving. If you’re unsure how, or you don’t have the skills needed to make it work, hire a consultant. Learn everything you can from them.
And also take advantage of the wonderful array of advice and lessons online.
If necessary, cut underperforming programs and use that money to bolster fundraising. Yes, I’m serious.
Fundraising done right will pay off for years to come. Your return on investment will be much higher than what you invest in stocks or what the bank will give you in interest.
Keep in mind that fundraising isn’t just how you fund your organization. Fundraising is how you build a movement of people who feel passionately about what you do. Who want to be your partners.
Too much other work
Too many plates in the air already?
Not enough time is like not enough money. And the answer is the same.
For many nonprofits, it’s either grow or die. Which do you want?
If you’re a one-person organization, then you must lean on your board.
If your board won’t fundraise with you, then your first critical job is to get a new board.
They are responsible for the financial health of the organization. And your health will suffer if you don’t prioritize fundraising.
Take a hard look at how you are spending your time. Are you madly writing grants to every foundation you find? Then look at your return.
Is all that time you’re putting in resulting in enough income for you to grow?
Are you depending on one event to bring in the money that supports your mission? Then focus on name capture and building relationships with participants. Otherwise, the event isn’t going to sustain you. (Again, ROI – how much staff time is being spent on this event? What else could they be doing?)
Fundraising doesn’t have to be scary
But if you want your organization to thrive, it does have to be a priority.