I remember the first time I was asked to fundraise. I was working for an education nonprofit in Boston, and everyone in the organization was asked to set up a crowdfunding page to send out to their friends and family.
My goal was relatively small, maybe $500. I had two months to raise the money, and I remember procrastinating for weeks. I was having trouble writing my story and selecting the pictures—I felt completely unmotivated around all of it. I kept saying to myself, “I have so many other things I need to be doing right now. I don’t actually have time for this!” But when I look back at that experience now, I don’t remember someone who was too busy to fundraise; I see someone who was afraid of it.
When I entered the nonprofit world 13 years ago, I hated fundraising. I felt uncomfortable, nervous, anxious, and vulnerable. I was worried that people would be mad at me for asking them for money. I was afraid people wouldn’t like me or that they would say, “No.” My inner critic was obsessed with the fear of rejection. Fundraising meetings were terrifying because I knew there would always be questions that I wasn’t prepared to answer (God forbid we had to dig into budgets and numbers!).
I had all sorts of stories at my disposal to avoid fundraising (or at least fundraising effectively):
· “They gave $100 last year. If you ask them for more, they might not give at all.”
· “If they wanted to give more, they would on their own.”
· “I need to be with the organization longer before I can ask for that level of support.”
· “People don’t want to be surprised by a phone call. They would much prefer an email that they can answer on their own time.”
· “They didn’t respond to my email outreach. They must not be interested in getting together.”
I felt guilty about asking for money. I didn’t understand what fundraising was—an invitation.
Now I know that fundraising is an open invitation for someone to get involved in your important and life-changing work. It’s an opportunity being offered. That’s it.
Sometimes, working in the nonprofit sector, I think we forget how lucky we are to have impact-focused jobs that we get to come to every day. Most people don’t have that, and donating is a way for them to connect with work that they believe in, that they find meaningful.
If I could go back 13 years and tell myself anything about fundraising, it would be this: you are the one with something to offer. The work you are doing is powerful and meaningful. It is important that you give other people the opportunity to get involved with something so transformative. If they do not take you up on your offer, it isn’t personal. It has nothing to do with you or the quality of your work. It’s merely not the right fit for them, and hopefully, they find another organization in better alignment with their passions. Move on, focus on the work, and continue giving new people the opportunity to engage and give every chance you get.