Overcoming the fear of asking is one of our industries toughest challenges
When it comes to people’s greatest fears, asking for money is right up there with public speaking and death.
Considering work in the not-for-profit sector often involves both public speaking and asking for money, this is not an industry for the light hearted. While there are a small minority of fundraisers who enjoy asking for money, most of us need to learn to overcome our natural fears in order to succeed at our jobs.
While a little fear can motivate you to perform, too much fear can hinder your solicitation or even prevent you from asking altogether. Prospective supporters need you to ask, they want you to ask and expect you to ask, so it is vitally important that you ask.
Whether you have your own fears to overcome, or have responsibility for staff or volunteers who do the asking, these strategies can help you face this challenge.
Prepare & Rehearse
Fear in fuelled by the unknown, therefore knowledge will be your most valuable weapon. Knowledge about the organisation, its history, vision and the specific project for which funding is being sought will ensure you can answer any questions the prospect might have. While knowledge of the prospect can help you decide on the best approach and pre-empt any objections they might have. Being prepared will help build your confidence, as will rehearsing your solicitations. Get someone to role play with you and workshop possible scenarios for how your meeting could play out.
Change Your Thinking
Many years ago I heard the keynote speaker at a fundraising conference tell the audience “you are not in the business of fundraising, you are in the business of self-actualisation”. While I found his statement a bit grandiose, the premise is right. It is your job to enlighten people about important issues, allow them to make an impact on something close to their hearts and help them to effectively invest their philanthropic dollars. When you focus on what you have to offer the prospect, solicitation becomes less about asking for money and therefore less scary.
Connect With Your Cause
It is not uncommon for professional fundraisers to work for a cause that they are not personally passionate about. In these situations a fear of asking can be derived from a fear of being exposed as a fraud. You will however, be able to project sincerity if you can find a genuine connection with your cause. Read annual reports, case studies and go out in the field if possible to see how the organisation in touching the lives of its beneficiaries. Talk with frontline staff and volunteers and let yourself be infected with their enthusiasm. As your pride in the organisation grows, so will your level of comfort in asking for support.
As you become more experienced at solicitation, your anxiety levels will decrease. In the meantime, the best advice I can give you is to “fake it till you make it”.