October-2016-Blog-Graphic_3-500x286This October, the Donor By Design team is tackling spooky situations in development. Join us this month for hair-raising stories and cautionary tales of frightful fundraising!

    Recently, I’ve had the honor to be asked to chair a fundraising committee of a community group. The committee is mostly made up of long-time volunteers, one other nonprofit professional and me.

    As we met for the first time in a sunny, cheerful youth room, one thing was abundantly clear: Almost all of the committee members were dreadfully afraid.

    Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?

    When entering the unknown, it’s easy to make the situation seem even worse than it already is. Like characters in a scary movie, we creep forward, our flashlights barely making a dent in the darkness, jumping at every sound.

    What makes the scene in the movie so scary is the fear of the unknown. I think that’s what makes fundraising so scary too, if you’ve never done it before.

    If you have never asked anybody for money, it seems very frightening. You think about rejection and that makes you want to run the other way. When you don’t know what to do first, you feel lost and stuck.

    There is an antidote to this frightening situation, of course.

    Turn on the lights.

    Illuminating the situation immediately changes things. In the movie, it shows you that the shadowy figure in the corner was just a coat rack. In fundraising, it allows you to see your way forward.

    The next time you find yourself in a scary meeting, consider the following:

    • Information is illuminating. When you can see what’s around you, it’s less frightening. The same goes for coming up with a plan. Good data, presented clearly helps even the inexperienced fundraiser start to identify potential ways to move forward.
    • Relationships are reassuring. When a character goes it alone in a scary movie, you know that bad things are about to happen. It’s the same thing in fundraising. Going it alone is, well, lonely. Instead, working together, getting to know the team and the potential donors, makes everything feel safer and more manageable.
    • Use what you have. In a scary movie, the hero often has to improvise when facing a situation. In life, we have to improvise too. In your first meeting with those scared volunteers, ask everyone to talk about their experience – not fundraising experience, but organizational experience and life experience. A passion for the organization’s mission will get you farther in fund development than any slick skill in asking.
    • The worst case scenario is just a scenario. It’s easy to imagine the worst thing that could happen. But the worst thing is far less likely to happen than the unsatisfying or inconclusive thing. It’s much more likely that a donation will be less than you expected or that your appeal won’t come at a good time for a donor than it is that you’ll be kicked out the door for even asking. You can prepare for the first two situations – and preparing for them will actually help your whole campaign move more smoothly.

    Fundraising isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be frightening. If you’re new to this work, or leading a team of newbies, turn on the lights before entering the unknown.

    Posted by Lora Dow
    Lora Dow

    Written by Lora Dow

    Since 2006, Lora has helped nonprofits on both a local, state and national level develop a clear and compelling case for support. Effective communications are critical to any organization's ability to inspire donors, advocates and volunteers. Lora's expertise and experience make the process of developing those communications the most effective they can be.

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