Let me guess. You hate asking people for money. If you run a non-profit, you're in good company. Raising money is hard work -- and for many executive directors, it's the bane of their existence. But fearing "the ask" is a professional hazard, and I want to help reframe the experience so that you can get out there, raise more money and actually start to enjoy doing it.
Embrace your fear
Asking for money brings up all kinds of "stuff" for leaders. For some, it's a fear of rejection. What if I give my best pitch, and they say no? What does that mean about the worth of my work? Or worse, what does that mean about me as a leader? For others, it's a power issue. It's one of the few moments when an organizational leader is not in the control seat -- they need someone else, and they have to be extra nice, extra persuasive and it can feel downright icky. Some leaders feel so passionate about their organizations that it can feel insulting when people don't want to contribute. For some, engaging with very wealthy individuals can be intimidating or uncomfortable, or bring up their own insecurities about money. Others feel that fundraising is annoying to people, and they don't want to bother anyone by asking them for donations.
Whatever it is that riles you up about asking people for money, figure it out and embrace it. Understand it. Show compassion to yourself. And get ready to change your mind about what it means to raise money for your cause.
Reframe your attitude
If you fear asking for money, take this new attitude for a spin. Repeat after me:
I am not bothering anyone by asking them for money.
Here's what you are doing:
You are offering people an opportunity to engage in something you are passionate about that will add depth and meaning to their lives. You have access to something that most people spend their whole lives searching for. Purpose. Impact. A legacy. And for a small fee, other people can access that incredible asset of yours.
No you're not selling a product...a vacation or a piece of art. You are in the business of making a difference, and you can enable people who have the resources, to make a tremendous difference in the world. By realizing the treasure that you possess (and that other people want), you will stop apologizing for giving people the opportunity to engage as much as they are able to.
Shake those nerves
Next time you head into a pitch meeting, keep these thoughts in your back pocket to keep the fundraising blues from creeping up on you:
1. Fail well, and fail often: Rejection is an important indicator of success for fundraisers. If you aren't getting rejected regularly, you're clearly not asking for enough money and you aren't' taking enough risks. Go for it, and view rejection as a sign that you're actually getting out there enough.
2. Be a proud advocate: Being willing to advocate for your organization is an act of love and leadership. You aren't just raising money -- you're building advocates for your cause.
3. There are perks for you too: Fundraising is all about building relationships. And as a result of your affiliation with your organization, you have a great excuse for building a relationship with someone you might not otherwise have access to. What a privilege.
4. Don't judge those who can't give: You are not entitled to someone else's money. If someone rejects your ask, that doesn't mean they don't support or care about your cause. It means they can't give to this specific initiative at this specific moment.
5. Find the good: Even a bomb of a meeting can have a silver lining. Someone who doesn't want to give personally might still be able to think of someone who would be interested. They might be able to give you meaningful feedback about your organization that can help you improve. This meeting is just the start of your relationship with them. Find the positive. Make the positive.
6. This is not the donor's first rodeo. If they have the capacity to give, you are probably not the first person to ask them for support. They know what's coming, and likely wonder when you're going to just get it over with and pop the question.
7. This is your job. Your job is to support and lead your organization. Asking for money is totally in character...it's a natural extension of your leadership. Play your role with joy and pride.
And most importantly,
8. You're giving people the ability to make a difference. You offer an opportunity for potential funders to learn about an important issue, and to touch or explore that issue in an authentic way. By inviting people in, you offer them the ability to lead change with you. And that's an awesome thing.
Good luck raising the big bucks. And remember...you're not alone in this.
Any additional tips you'd add to the mix? Share them in the comments.