In all of my years of fundraising, nobody ever talked to me about vulnerability and fundraising. Which is a shame, because it ultimately impacts the way we feel about fundraising and all we do as fundraisers.
Being in touch with the vulnerabilities that are brought up around fundraising and knowing how to handle them is a critical part of our ability to fundraise effectively, efficiently, and to not burn out and hate our jobs.
So when I started taking an executive coach certification program, I learned more about the cognitive behavior loop and combined that with a lot of the teachings of vulnerability and shame experts… like Brene Brown, for one.
It became super clear that we need a two things to change in the nonprofit sector to support us:
- We need training for fundraisers on how and why vulnerability shows up in our fundraising work.
- And we need a larger conversation about nonprofit stigma that helps us take apart the shame cycle that exists around inviting people to give to our organizations.
And those two things need to happen simultaneously.
In this article I want to talk to you about why vulnerability shows up in our work. This part is about you.
I hear a lot from my clients is that they’ve done a lot of personal work around self-worth, value, vulnerability and shame. And while they feel like they have control of these things in other elements of their life, the moment that they start to fundraise or prep for a donor meeting, that work feels lost. All of their deepest fears, all of their imposter syndrome, self-chatter, gremlin voices come up big-time.
We’re triggered by fundraising because it involves money and money is an element in our society that is surrounded with limiting beliefs.
Here are some examples of limiting beliefs around money:
“There isn’t enough for everyone”.
“Money is the root of all evil”.
“You should have to work really, really hard for money”.
“You should have to exchange something tangible for money”.
…The list goes on and on.
Because of these structural limiting beliefs around money, it’s naturally difficult to address head on. It triggers our own vulnerability, questions our self-worth and personal value. We tie that directly into the ask or the offer that we’re making for our organization. We make it about us.
So when somebody tells us no, it feels very personal, right?
When somebody doesn’t respond to an email or you get ghosted, your thoughts might spiral into: “Oh, they must not like ME”.
Or, “Oh, maybe they’re mad at me for this other thing that I said”
Or even “Uh oh, what did I do wrong in my last meeting with them so that they don’t want to talk to me anymore?”
We get into these shame cycle stories and blame ourselves.
And we need to stop it.
The first step is to start to bring awareness to the stories that are coming up for you around fundraising. Start to listen to what you hear when a donor doesn’t get back to you, or someone says no.
What is the thought or belief that is triggered and is it TRUE? Get curious about it. This is step one of addressing the spiral.
I also want to add that the other reason why fundraising triggers a lot of our vulnerability for many fundraisers is because most of us have had shame inducing experiences fundraising. Read Part TWO of my vulnerability series, I get into that!