Smart Ways to Kick Fundraising Pessimism to the Curb

Are the people in your nonprofit a tad… risk averse?

Maybe they don’t want to try any of your fundraising ideas?

So, you’re in an office with people who have been there longer than you.

You have an idea. Let’s say it’s a phone-a-thon. And those people say, “no, it will never work!” or “We tried it 10 years ago, it didn’t work, we’re not trying it again”

Or maybe you are the pessimistic one!
crying at my desk

How do you get around fundraising pessimism?

1.  Acknowledge that it’s hard.

Don’t even pretend it isn’t. People like it when you acknowledge their reality. Fundraising is hard. But we have to do it if we want our nonprofits to succeed in their missions. Just start from a place where you can both agree that it’s hard.

2. Ask the person what fundraising tasks they like to do.

You will probably already know the answer to this one, but ask them. Maybe they do really well with major gifts but hate researching grants. Or maybe they love writing appeal letters but can’t stand running events. Suggest a few things if they don’t seem forthcoming. Chances are, these are the methods that are working well right now, because they like to do them.

3. Ask the person what fundraising tasks they don’t like as much.

You’ll probably also know this as well, but it’s good to just get it out there. If they hate calling around for sponsorship, get it out there. What about writing the newsletter? They hate it? Well, it’s probably not getting done or not getting done very well.

4. Ask the person how long it took to see results with their favorite fundraising method.

They might say, “Well, I don’t know, it was working when I got here,” or they might say “It took a year to see results.” You can ask them, “Why did it take a year?” They might say, “Because we had to build the relationships.” This might get them to see that in order to see results from another method of fundraising, it could take that long.

5. Ask them how long it takes to develop a business.

They might say, “well, I don’t know.” You can tell them, “95% of businesses fail in the first 5 years. Because they are not well known enough, and they are still trying to figure out how to do marketing and sales and run the business.” This might let them realize that a fundraising method may take time to work, as a business takes time to get known, and learn which marketing and sales methods work the best.

Why are you asking questions instead of telling them what’s going on?

Because asking questions allows the person to start drawing their own conclusions from what you’re saying.

The other thing that this person may start to realize is that the fundraising tasks that they like to do, they are succeeding at. And the tasks they don’t like to do, they are not succeeding at. So they might come to the conclusion that they should let people try new things in fundraising.

This is the strengths based leadership model.

Here’s some more details about the Strengths Based leadership model and why it works:

They made 200% over their fundraising goal with with the Strengths Based Leadership model

How can you discover your strengths?

4 ways to find the work that is most fulfilling to you

So, hopefully, after you’ve asked them these questions, they might draw the conclusion that giving the fundraising tasks to someone who does like to do them, and who has experience in them, may yield different results.

Because we all have different strengths, and we can’t all be equally good at every fundraising task.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we are probably pretty good at one or two fundraising tasks, (the ones we enjoy doing) and pretty bad at the rest of them.

If you’ve ever dealt with fundraising pessimism before, how did YOU overcome it?

If you’d like to learn more about how to overcome fundraising pessimism, and build a strengths based leadership team at your nonprofit, check out Kishshana Palmer’s session at our Virtual Fundraising Career Conference, April 6-8th, 2016. Even if you can’t make that day, every registrant gets the recordings.

Fundraising Career Conference 2016
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