40: Mallory's Donor Retnetion Coaching Tips and Tools you can Implement Now

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“I actually believe that a lot of what we don’t do isn’t a time management problem at all. It’s an emotional management one.”

– Mallory Erickson
Episode #40


In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

I weave some of the strategies discussed in this mini-series with concepts surrounding shifting your mindset, self-coaching tools, and varying elements of personal growth strategies that help you become more aware of patterns or conditioning that fundraisers circulate in. 

There are narratives we tell ourselves inside the nonprofit/fundraising space that is so easy to get caught up in. Rejection [or fear of rejection] and perfectionism are among the key drivers that hold us there, and I provide some penetrative tips to shift yourself out of these self-imposed standards and fears and break into a new way of thinking. 

“The truth is most fundraisers stick to a hustle routine and their shiny new funder syndrome because it feels more comfortable. I know that might sound crazy but you know the quote, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know? That nonprofit hustle is the devil we know, but really it’s built on a false belief.”

I break into understanding the hustle culture of fundraising, outlining exactly how it’s not only an outdated belief but it’s actually detrimental to the work we do as fundraisers. In conjunction, I provide key self-coaching tips to implement now that can help you do a mental reset around your own beliefs and how it can help reframe your approach inside your day-to-day. 



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I teach nonprofit fundraisers to bring in more gifts from the RIGHT donors… so they can stop hounding people for money. Fundraising doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.


episode transcript

Mallory Erickson 

Welcome back to Episode 40 of What The Fundraising. I’m your host Mallory Erickson and this podcast is for impact leaders and change-makers who are looking to fundamentally change the way they lead and fundraise. This episode is part of an incredible mini-series on donor retention made possible by our friends at DonorPerfect.

In this episode, it’s just me, your host. I wanted to take a moment and give you something a little different. There has been so much wisdom shared this week about donor retention. I have been pushed to think about so many things really differently, but this episode isn’t a recap. It’s quick coaching tips and tools to help you actually utilize the advice you heard in other episodes.

Let me explain, a lot of the time when it comes to fundraising advice, we get stuck in the strategy. Don’t get me wrong, I love strategy. I think strategic is number three on my strength finders, but here’s the problem with strategy. It’s also a form of avoidance, avoidance of what, our feelings, and wait, wait before you click off this podcast, I want you to hear me out. 

We spend so much time on strategy, plans, and operating procedures in the nonprofit sector. But so many of the strategies or plans or even standard operating procedures aren’t used. I think we blame a lot of this on being too busy to do the things we put on all those nice documents.

But I actually believe that a lot of what we don’t do isn’t a time management problem at all. It’s an emotional management one, and that’s where executive coaching comes in. Executive coaching helps us understand the relationship between our thoughts and beliefs and how we feel, which determines how we show up, and ultimately our results.

So if we want to change our results about anything, including donor retention, we need to understand how we feel, and the thoughts and beliefs behind those feelings. Let’s talk for a minute about how this plays out when it comes to donor retention and some awareness you need and self-coaching tools you can use to help you stay focused.

See, when I was a newer fundraiser and I see this with a lot of my clients, I had something that I now call it Shiny New Funder Syndrome. You may have heard me talk about shiny new object syndrome before, and this is essentially the same thing. It’s the desire to continually move on to each next best thing because it makes you feel good to switch to tasks that seem easier, more fun, or just plain different. And they trigger fewer fundraising fears.

If you’re a fundraiser with shiny new funder syndrome, you’re constantly distracted, scattered, and moving a mile a minute in a way that you seem to hate, but you’re also perpetuating in order to avoid the deeper discomforts that are related to fundraising. And if you feel called out, I just want you to know that I sat exactly where you sit right now.

And there are two main emotional reasons that we get stuck in shiny new funders syndrome. And we have to be aware of these elements if we’re actually going to implement the donor retention strategies that are highlighted in this mini-series. So I’m going to break each of these internal barriers or fears down. And I also want to say that they are deeply related to each other. 

So the first thing is that the hustle makes us feel worthy. Ooh, many of us have a belief system rooted in societal norms and limiting beliefs and hustle culture, that tells us the harder we hustle, the more we deserve. 

But is that something you honestly believe?

I’ve had to do a lot of self-coaching to not buy into this model anymore. Because when we’re all about the hustle, then we’re bound to get swept up in shiny new funder syndrome. Because we’re running new campaigns, hosting more events, having as many first-time meetings as we can get into our already packed schedule and all the while our most loyal donors aren’t hearing from us at all because we are too busy.

The truth is most fundraisers stick to a hustle routine and their shiny new funder syndrome because it feels more comfortable. I know that might sound crazy, but you know the quote, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” That nonprofit hustle is the devil we know, but really it’s built on a false.

We feel more uncertain when we aren’t hustling, but when it comes to donor retention, as you’ve heard in all of these episodes, there are proven strategies that need to be implemented. The hustle isn’t more certain, we just feel more worthy when we’re doing it. The tip here is to start a short end-of-day journal, to notice when you’re hustling without consciousness around it.

Some of the questions to ask yourself could be, What activities did I do today to contribute towards my donor retention goal. Or on a scale of 0 to10, 10 being the highest ROI, how do I feel like I prioritize the use of this time, or my time today? And then three, where was I hustling today that kept me busy and distracted, but might not be the most effective use of my time. And then the fourth one would be something like what’s on my to-do list that’s making me really uncomfortable. And to give yourself permission to explore. 

So that’s the first emotional reason that the hustle makes us feel worthy and so we fall into this unconscious hustling all the time. 

The second emotional reason is related to our fear of rejection or rejection itself.

And there are a few different pieces to this. So rejection feels scarier from a return donor. It feels like there’s more at stake. We’d rather be told no by someone we aren’t as invested in. Just think about this in terms of dating for a second. It’s a lot less painful to be told someone doesn’t want another date after the first date, than after the 10th.

Well, why is that? That’s because we blame ourselves more after the 10th date, in terms of it being about us. We start to come up with narratives around why the person didn’t like us and what we did wrong. But the reality is those are just stories in our head and we have the power to change those narratives.

When you’re starting to spiral into that chatter. I want you to pull yourself out by asking yourself some questions. One thing that you can do is say, what would I tell a friend who is in the exact same situation right now. Another strategy that you can use here is write down that whole narrative that you’ve come up with about how you’re such a bad person, how you did X, Y, and Z wrong. And that’s the reason they aren’t giving again, write out that story on a sheet of paper. And then on the opposite side of that paper, write the exact opposite story. What else might be true? 

And if you are really spiraling that I want you to use a strategy we learned from Dr. Ethan Cross in the episode about Chatter, it’s called, distance self-talk. And a way that you can do this is by using your first name and then something motivating after. So, Mallory, you know how to keep donors engaged in your organization. It just looks like Lucy wasn’t the most aligned. Or Mallory, you are a great fundraiser, and look at where you’re seeing success over here. Using your first name pulls you out of that tunnel vision, that catabolic energy that we talk about, and it can really help you stay in action and move forward when you’re starting to have some of those self-defeating narratives. 

And if you need more go and listen to Episode #1 of What The Fundraising with Dr. Ethan Cross, there are so many takeaways in that episode. We need to be constantly self-coaching around this because when we let our fear-based stories about rejection and perfectionism run the show, we find ourselves with low donor retention rates and the cycle continues.

If you want reliable revenue and sustainable fundraising. It requires you to step out of that hustle, comfort zone, and sink into deep aligned and vulnerable relationship building with your power partners. I know this can feel scary at first, but it is the path to success. 

All right, unlike other episodes, there is not a lot more where this came from, but to get all the show notes with these executive coaching tips and takeaways, head on over to Malloryerickson.com/podcast.

Thank you for spending this time with me today. 

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