It’s no secret that being a fundraiser is a complex job with many emotional and social aspects that make it difficult. From anxieties about asking donors for money to formulating the perfect strategy to encourage more donations, it’s understandable why so many dread the act of fundraising if they haven’t done personal work around their thoughts and beliefs related to fundraising.
Although making calls, meeting face-to-face, creating videos, and even sending emails for fundraising efforts can be uncomfortable, it’s essential nonprofit work.
While many individuals struggle with the workflow of fundraising, much of that discomfort is caused by personal biases when it comes to asking for donations. After all, we often assume that we are putting people in a tough spot by asking them for more or making them feel guilty if they have to say “no.”
In addition, we often associate a donor telling us “no” as a form of rejection, and that can also be an uncomfortable experience. In fact, according to Psychology Today, “fMRI studies show that the same areas of the brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain.”
As fundraisers, it is important to our money-raising efforts to reframe our mindset about the fundraising process. This includes addressing our negative biases and habit of underestimating our own influence. Furthermore, it means revisiting our approach and communication style.
You have more influence than you know! However, it is held back by limiting beliefs about the act of ‘asking’ donors or inviting them to invest in your organization.
Tap into your powerful influence by:
- Recognizing Your Negative Bias & Tracking Real Metrics
- Understanding Your Influence
- Making Donating a Positive Experience
- Reframe Your Mindset About “No”
- Key Takeaways
Recognize Negative Bias
In Episode 26 of What the Fundraising, Vaness Bohns provided extensive insight on her findings when it comes to the mindset of the average fundraiser. During this episode, she explained that many suffer from both “hindsight bias” and even “negativity bias” when it comes to their fundraising efforts.
Notably, hindsight bias is defined as “when a person looks back and at an event and believes they could have predicted the outcome” (Investopedia). Likewise, negativity bias is described as “a tendency to give more importance to negative experiences than to positive or neutral experiences” (Healthline).
This means that, even if a fundraising event goes considerably well, the participating fundraisers may leave the situation with a negative bias. That is, they may look at the donated proceeds without the ability to think positively because they are focusing on the handful of “no” responses they received.
Even if the fundraiser turned out a much better outcome than expected, many might have the misguided perception that it didn’t go as well as planned. For these reasons, it is important for nonprofit organizations to consider tracking their expectations, goals, and outcomes for fundraising events.
By tracking expectations, they can look back at what they had originally projected and compare it to the outcome of the fundraiser. The 2022 Fundraising Planner by DonorPerfect is an excellent tool to track fundraising projections and outcomes with the goal of banishing negative biases.
Understand Your Influence
We often do not realize how closely people are monitoring our mannerisms, listening to what we say, and watching our reactions. When a fundraiser has an aversion to asking for contributions, donors can often sense that lack of confidence.
We often assume that people don’t want to help or donate. Therefore, fundraisers often lack confidence in their message and mannerisms when communicating their message. In reality, most human beings enjoy the feeling of knowing they helped, it creates a positive self-identity.
As such, it is important for nonprofit organizations to provide professional development to assist fundraisers in banishing their negative biases and leaning into their influence. It makes all the difference when fundraisers are able to reframe their mindset about how donors feel being asked for a donation.
Make Donating a Positive Experience
Rather than focusing on persuasive strategies to coerce people into donating, think about how to make them feel good about the situation. What can you say to make them feel good about their investment in your nonprofit organization?
In addition, it may be helpful to consider changing up the way you approach donors for their contributions. Asking people face-to-face without warning can make someone feel uncomfortable and put on the spot to make a hasty decision.
For the longevity of your relationship with each individual donor, it is important that they feel comfortable and at ease when discussing investment in your nonprofit organization. To give them time to think about their contribution, consider setting up a meeting through email and being clear about the purpose of the meeting (remember: no one likes surprises).
Then, in the face-to-face meeting, you can discuss all of the important initiatives and plans your nonprofit organization has for the year. At this point, because you got permission for the meeting (and you were clear about why you were meeting), you have the green light to invite the donor to invest in your organization.
Giving them this gradual experience will set donors at ease and allow them to carefully consider their responses. It will limit the amount of abrupt no’s you receive as they have had a chance to think about how much they can afford to contribute.
If you think about it, giving contributors room to think and retracting influence is sometimes more likely to lead to a positive experience for both the fundraiser and donor. For information about growing relationships with donors, I love DonorPerfect’s Donor Persona Checklist!
Reframe Your Mindset About “No”
As mentioned above, getting hit with “no” answers over and over again while fundraising can wear on a fundraiser’s mentality. For this reason, it is vital for us to reframe our mindset to not view “no” as a personal rejection.
Remember, “no” can mean many things. It can mean, “not right now .”It can also mean, “I wish I could, but I can’t at the moment.” Furthermore, “no” may also be a temporary placeholder response from a potential donor feeling put on the spot. We often take a donor “no” as the final say on the matter and we are missing a massive opportunity because of that. Even the way we think about lapsed donors is all wrong.
In a study reported on Stanford Business, it was reported that people are more likely to say “yes” to a favor request the second time they are asked. The study concluded that “saying no the first time actually made people more likely to say yes the second time.”
Consider a polite backup request if your first donation inquiry is turned down. As a fundraiser, you may be surprised by the shocking amount of “yes” answers you get when you come with a backup request. Furthermore, it is important to revisit donors who may have said “no” months ago or last year, as they may now be in a better position to contribute. Remember, you don’t want to make assumptions about your donors or make decisions for them, you’re not pestering them by following up and checking in, you’re making invitations.
Great fundraising is not an ask, it’s an opportunity.
People want to feel helpful and charitable; therefore, it is in our nature as humans to say “yes” when asked for donations. Keeping this in mind will help you create a more positive approach to your communication and drive more donations.
Nonprofit organizations that routinely track their projections, goals, and outcomes for fundraisers have a less negative bias when it comes to asking for donations. As such, they are more likely to exude confidence in their interactions with donors.
For more advice and tips about the nonprofit sector and how to streamline your fundraising processes, check out my regularly-updated Resources.
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