Your Fundraising Persona

Last week was a truly bad week.  First our son was hit by a car while he was riding his bike to the metro station to go to work.  Emergency room.  Intensive care.  He’s out now, but still dealing with everything that goes along with a fractured skull.

The day after his accident, I was walking two of my dogs, lost in thought which is not how you should be when walking two medium-sized dogs.  Seemingly out of nowhere, a skateboarder.  Dogs spooked and then I was in the ER with a nasty gash over my right eye and a fractured radius.  And yes, my right wrist.  And yes again.  I am a righty.

So I’m typing this—poorly and slowly—with my left hand.

Just a few days before all this, I was bummed because the gym I’ve been going to for 25 years is closing in 6 weeks. It seems like such a minor thing now, but then it was all we—my gym buddies and I—were focused on.  And now, I can’t go to the gym, or drive, or do more things than I ever imagined for the 6 weeks (longer if it turns out I need surgery), and all that really matters is that son is okay, my grandkids, who live in Wisconsin, sent photo of them blowing kisses my way,  and, honestly, I have the best husband who knows when to be solicitous and when to get out of my way.

So yeah.  All in all, I’m pretty lucky.

Still.  There are those moments.  Moments when it all seems harder than it needs to.

Times when we’d rather eat iron filings than call for an appointment, meet with a prospect, do a presentation in front of your (hostile) board.

Many years ago, when I actually did fundraising instead of helping others to do the work, I had a meeting with a very important potential major donor.  The evening before, my boss and I had had an argument because he felt I was too aggressive in my asks.  He felt that I asked for too much, to quickly—and the fact that most of those asks turned into yeses, and most of those donors remained loyal didn’t seem to matter.  I was hurt, angry, and felt totally unsupported.  There was a big part of me that wanted to tell my prospect “Don’t even consider supporting this place.”
But, of course, the place was not the problem—it was a terrific institution, and we used our donors’ generosity really well.

I had to take my ego out of the equation and do my job.

That’s not always easy to do.  Which is why you need a fundraising persona.

This is not a fake personality, but it is a personality that is always on, always positive, always passionate about your organization and the work you do.  In your fundraising persona guise, you would never badmouth a boss, complain about a colleague, say anything in a negative way.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be truthful.  If something bad is going on at your organization, you can (and should) own it—and talk about what is happening to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again.

Good fundraising is all about making your donor feel that his or her gift is important—and it is important largely because the work your organization does, the work they support, is vital.  So with your fundraising persona you are using big words.  We don’t do “nice” work;  we do “amazing” things.  We don’t just help, we change the world.  Over the top? Perhaps.  But you know, the nonprofit is doing critically important things, things that might not happen if not for us.

And we wouldn’t happen if not for the generosity of our amazing, fantastic, and truly stupendous donors.



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