Has this ever happened to you? You make a financial ask from a donor, they say yes, perhaps quickly and then. . . . silence. You maybe make a follow-up call or two. . . . silence. If you are like me, it is at that point that I start making up a story, usually with myself/my organization at the center, often as the villain. They hate me, I asked for too much/too little/wrong thing, I’m a bad fundraiser, why don’t they call me back? When is the money going to come?
I have found, almost without fail, that in these situations the donor has usually gotten involved in this thing called “their lives” and it’s actually not about me. Recognizing when you are telling yourself a “story” that may or may not be true can take some of the pain and uncertainty out of the fundraising process. Getting curious, rather than conclusionary, can also help diffuse vulnerable feelings.
Over the years, I’ve turned to relationship psychology for insight into ways to effectively remove the fear many people feel when called upon to ask for money. Brené Brown is a great resource to work through concepts like vulnerability and shame, two key aspects that keep fundraisers from connecting with donors in a healthy way.
Her take on using the phrase “the story I’m making up is. . .” has been one of my go-to tools for working with donors.
While you are asking for money, what you are really doing is about relationships and a difficult part of relationships is talking transparently about money. Working on our own triggers and bias will make us better partners, better listeners, and truthfully, more joyful activists.