It’s been my pleasure to get to know Claire Axelrad and her great blog Clairification. I’ve always said my best Halloween costume was to dress as a fundraiser! As a guy who teaches how to ask without fear, I love the post she’s sharing. In it, she asks what’s truly scary–asking for money, or what happens if you don’t ask for money? You can find Claire on Twitter @CharityClairity.
What’s Scarier? Witches, Goblins or Fundraising? 7 Ways to Stop Being Afraid
by Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE
What’s scarier than fundraising, headless horsemen and spooky ghosts combined?
As much fun as it may be to dress up and freak out the neighbor’s kids on Halloween, let’s take a moment to think about what’s really, truly scary.
That would be cancer … global warming… natural disasters… homelessness… domestic violence… human trafficking… malaria… undrinkable water… torture and injustice… poverty… hunger… there are a lot of scary problems in the world!
If your board members, or executive director – or you! – are scared to ask for philanthropic gifts, consider the alternative. Not asking.
Here’s what I mean:
- If it were you facing a night sleeping on the streets, would you rather ask for money to get a bed or stay homeless?
- If it were you diagnosed with a terminal disease, would you rather ask for money to find a cure or succumb?
- If it were you being unable to buy food to feed your kids, would your rather ask for help or see your children become ill?
- If you were a polluted river would you rather continue down this path until you could be set on fire, or seek funds so you could flow free and pure?
Is fundraising scarier than doing what needs to be done to solve these problems?
Whenever you’re called on to ask for gifts, remember to think as if you were the one in dire need. Fundraisers ask when needs are apparent. Fundraisers ask on behalf of those who cannot. Rivers, forests, children, seniors, immigrants, the sick, the lonely, the impoverished.
Fundraisers ask to resolve problems and make the world a less scary place.
When people won’t fundraise because they’re scared, remind them to consider the alternative. If it were them being faced personally with this problem, how might that change their feelings? All the great religions have a commandment along the lines of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. There is a special commandment in Judaism called tikkun olam. It means to “repair the world.” We don’t raise money simply for the love of money. We do so to restore balance to a world that constantly gets out of whack. If we don’t do it, who will?
Here are 7 ways to set your fundraisers up to overcome the ‘scary’:
Connect them to their passion
Talk to them about why they’re involved. How is it personal? Have they been touched by your issue? Or do you need to set them up for some site visits so they can connect more personally to your work? Passion is what will help folks overcome their fears. Coincidentally, it’s what will separate you from the crowd and inspire others to join you.
Arm them with great stories
Great fundraising is really just great storytelling. Collect a few great stories that compellingly convey your mission. Not too many; you don’t want to overwhelm folks. You want them to remember these stories! Tell the stories. Write them down. Have your fundraisers practice telling the story back to you and others. Let them own the story and become passionate about the telling.
Provide inspiring training
Ignite your fundraisers’ passion for philanthropy. Don’t make your training all about money and sales. Give them a few easy-to-remember message points that speak to the need you address and your organization’s impact on the community. Why should folks support you over any other organization that does this type of work? Give your volunteers 3-5 talking points and FAQs. Give them brief case statements about your core programs. Give them succinct fact sheets.
Make thoughtful solicitor assignments
Don’t assign cold calls. Endeavor to create ‘wins’. With a first-time solicitor, pair them with someone you know will give. Don’t give folks too many calls at too low a dollar level. Plan ahead so that you make the best use of your volunteers’ valuable contacts and limited availability. It’s better to focus board members on fewer calls at much higher dollar levels. I believe in asking board members to make only 2-3 calls at any one time.
Create user-friendly prospect/donor profiles
Give folks all the information they’ll need to make a successful connection with their assignment. This means letting the solicitor know how much was given, when, and why (for what purpose) and how long the person assigned has been connected with your organization. And it means suggesting an appropriate ask amount. It does not mean giving them access to every single note that’s ever been written in this donor’s record in your database. Don’t rely on database queries. Take the time to look at your print-outs and annotate them. Redact any information that really is none of the solicitor’s business. Speaking of scary… it’s just plain creepy when a solicitor comes off like ‘Big Brother.’
Make sure they make their own passionate gift first
What a board member says is not as important as what they do. They must lead by example (and, by the way, so should you)!
Support volunteers in building ongoing relationships
Remind them their work is not about the ‘ask’ alone. They can also serve as ‘ambassadors’ and ‘advocates.’ The “AAA Board” is one that’s set up for success because we help them assume the role for which they’re prepared today; then we help them take baby steps towards the roles they will assume tomorrow. When we make appropriate assignments, fundraising becomes a lot less scary. You’ve got to learn to swim in the shallow water before you’re ready to jump off a diving board.
What would happen if your organization ceased to exist? Scary, no?
The alternative to fundraising is not fundraising. What happens to all the people who rely on you then? What happens to our planet and our society when people don’t channel their empathy and care for one another? Now that’s scary!
For more scary inspired fundraising posts, check out the Halloween Nonprofit Blog Carnival – Major Gifts Tricks and Treats.
I really enjoyed reading this piece and will share with our staff as well as our board members. Thank you
Terrific! Thanks for the kind words!