You are not alone.
Asking for money is hard. It’s intimidating. Especially when you are making a nonprofit salary and asking a major donor for big bucks.
Most nonprofit’s have limited resources which means many fundraisers have to figure things out on their own, with little training or professional development.
In order to improve your development skills, you’ll need to get some professional development ASAP. But until then, here are some tips to help you sharpen your skills independently.
Remember that fundraising is not about you. Fundraising in the nonprofit world is about getting organizations the money they need to help the community. Think about all the dogs that will be saved, or the people that will be fed if your organization can continue to work in the community. Drive that point home every chance you get.
Thinking about fundraising not in terms of reaching your personal fundraising goal, but in terms of helping as many people in the community as possible can make it easier for you to keep pushing ahead.
Get to know your major donors. If you are brand new to the organization and still unsure of what motivates donors to give, take the time to meet with a handful of major donors. In person is great, but a phone meeting or video call works too. Ask them why they are involved with your organization, what motivated their first gift, why they stay involved, and why they give so generously.
These conversations will help you begin to understand how and why donors are attracted to your organization. In turn, this will help you speak confidently about your organization and ask others to support your cause.
Don’t be ashamed to ask for money. Maybe it’s because of a cultural reticence to talk about money and finances, but a lot of people feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask for money. Even when that’s their job.
If you are going to work in nonprofit fundraising you cannot be ashamed to ask for money. Fight back against the urge to feel shame. There’s nothing shameful about asking people for money so that your organization can keep doing work in the community.
Let your personality shine through. People don’t donate to organizations, they donate to people.
Resist the urge to hide your personality behind your ask. You are unique, your asks and events should be too. You aren’t going to ask for money, lead an auction, or write fundraising copy exactly like the person next to you. Find your voice and lean in to what makes you different.
Craft your messaging for your audience. You are probably not in the same demographic as many of your donors. What appeals to you will not necessarily appeal to them.
When writing fundraising copy or planning an event put yourself in the donor’s position and see if it still appeals to you. Ask as many coworkers as you can what they think about your marketing material, event plan, or solicitation to get a better idea of how it will play to your different audiences.
Write several versions of the same copy when possible. You shouldn’t be sending the same materials to an older, male donor as you to do to a younger, female donor.
Collect data. Then, trust that data. Keep track of who is donating to your organization individually, but also what demographic groups they fall into.
Actually, keep track of everything.
The more information you have on who is donating, how much, and why, the better off you will be. Refer to your data and metrics often.
If it’s broke, fix it. Don’t stick to the same language when asking for a donation if it isn’t working for you. If you notice that the words you are using aren’t resonating with your audience, try crafting your message with a new angle. Practice often to ensure that you are comfortable with this new language before using it with a donor.
Take risks. Make mistakes. You can’t learn and grow without making mistakes. Take a risk with a new donor or asking for a big increase to a yearly donation. Remember that any mistakes you make are not likely to be world-ending. The worst that can happen is that they just say “No.”
Practice, practice, and practice some more. Sure there are those who are naturally awesome at fundraising, but most of us aren’t. Practice your pitches alone (I like to practice in my car) and with coworkers. Then get out there and start fundraising. The best practice you get is out in the field talking to any donor that will meet with you. Don’t forget to hone your skills writing direct appeals and marketing material. Do as much of this as you can. Before you know it, you’ll be a fundraising powerhouse.
Ask for help when you need it. Most great fundraisers aren’t born, they’re made. If you feel like you are struggling, ask the people around you for help. You’ll learn more from the people in your field than you ever could from books or the internet.
The truth is, there’s no magic pill that will make you an amazing fundraiser. You have to do the work, and a lot of it. But, with patience and practice you will build the confidence you need and you will get better at fundraising.