catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 14 :: 2013.07.05 — 2013.07.18


Five fundraising antidotes for the weak-kneed

I recently tore a ligament in my left knee, leaving me weak in that region. Aha! I’ve stumbled upon a great metaphor for the ambivalence I often feel about fundraising.

I’ve raised money over the years, successfully, but not without much gnashing of teeth (or should I say, tearing of ligaments?).  Just as my knee is responding to the antidotes of rest, PT and that hot stuff you rub on your joints, so there are antidotes for the funding fears.

Professional development pros already know what I’m about to say, so they can have the day off.  But if you are currently asking people for money for your own mission, allow me to expose five of the 35 fears I face and how I am overcoming them.

1. Embarrassment:I don’t want ‘be that guy’ who asks for money.”

What? That’s ridiculous. In America, colleges, non-profits and churches raise tons of money in legitimate and classy ways. Development is a necessary and high calling.

Treat your fundraising as a vital part of your job and portray it with the best materials and attitude you can muster. Do not be embarrassed, unless you’re raising money for something evil, stupid or ugly.

Antidote: Boldness. Don’t be cocky, but “be that guy” who loves what he’s called to and wants to yuk it up.  

2. Weakness: I don’t want to project dependence in a culture that prizes self-made money-makers.”

Then don’t. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur pitching your ideas to venture capitalists! If your work has captured your heart, it will capture others. Enlisting investors is how work gets done in this world, no matter the arena.  If there’s one thing potential donors appreciate, it’s someone who’s unashamed, if not bodacious, about their mission in life.

Antidote: Confidence. Speak from your heart about why you love your work. And ask for money, too. 

3. Drought: “I assume everyone out there makes as little as I do and can’t give.” 

Being a “Levite,” i.e. one whose possessions are mostly intangible, is tough. It has its privileges, for sure, but one of them is not a familiarity with handling loads of personal income, investments and savings.

Typical middle-class folk, however, have a fair amount of disposable income and want to share it with people they can connect to. I’ve been living a modest lifestyle for so long that I forget many of my peers haven’t.

Antidote: Expectation. Never say “No” for anyone. (I stole this line from a friend who surely stole it, too).

4. Success: “I’m content with almost reaching my goals because it’s better than more fund raising.”

I struggle to “hit the tape running” once most of my support comes in. It’s a weird phenomenon, but some of us fear success as much as failure. The source could be laziness, mediocrity or aversion to responsibility.

I need to be sure to set myself up for success. How? By setting challenging yet realistic goals.

Antidote: Endurance. Keep your goal in mind and don’t settle for anything less. 

5. Distraction: I’ll just get snowed in by the details.”

All fundraisers face the fog. The administrative junk you must pick through to conduct a campaign gets daunting after a while: record keeping, follow up procedures, a plethora of communication platforms to juggle.  Sometimes I use this morass as an excuse to clip my toenails, which frequently feels more satisfying than picking up the phone.

Little tasks are satisfying, but I have to give my first and best hours to talking to people, face-to-face or on the phone.  This is how I get hits. The rest is batboy stuff.

And it turns out that simply talking with people about your passions lifts the fog, especially when your audience nods, “uh-huhs,” and happily supports your work.

Antidote: Conversation.  Hundreds of emails, neswletters and Facebook posts pale in their effectiveness to three good conversations in one hour.   

Taking the time to write this in the midst of a fundraising campaign is a bit ironic, but I’ve found that headspace in times of fear matters most. Maybe heart space is even more important.  As the Apostle John said, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” If you love your work, and you know you’re loved, you can raise money. Watch me as I hobble.

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