Lauren Vertigan, fundraising consultant based in Melbourne, reacts to an interesting article published last month in Inside Philanthropy that discussed how personal experiences with money can impact on fundraisers’ success.
The author’s words hit home with me. In my early days as a fundraiser, I remember feeling anxious and inadequate interacting with the wealthy. While I grew up comfortably, I rarely dealt with people that came from substantial money and I often found interactions with top donors and prospects very intimidating. Combine these feelings with getting comfortable in ‘making the ask’, and your early days as a fundraiser can be fraught with stress.
With experience came the personal realisation that there were often more similarities than differences between the major donor and me, with our shared values and passion for a particular issue bringing us to be in the same room. The more I got to know major donors the more I learnt that many weren’t born into wealth and shared similar background to me. I found that the truer I was to myself in these interactions, the warmer the conversations became with the donor, and slowly, my feelings of inadequacy subsided and my confidence lifted.
An equal influence on our attitude towards fundraising could be our early learning about giving. For many people growing up, giving back in some way may have been part of their family’s DNA, an activity for all people. For others, philanthropy may have been viewed as an activity solely for the wealthy.
As I reflect on the early stages of my career, I realise that, despite having great mentors and managers, no one was talking about how our personal experiences with money and giving can impact on our success as fundraisers. And while I eventually reached a place where I was comfortable speaking with the wealthiest about money, I believe I could have reached this place much sooner with good advice.
Here’s some useful guidance originally published by Inside Philanthropy: five steps that will help you make peace with the range of resources in the world. The headings are taken directly from the article, with my own summary accompanying each unless otherwise indicated.
1. Write down your own money story.
As put so well in the article, great fundraising is seeing your value and not your worth. You won’t necessarily be a successful fundraiser if you grew up with money, or an unsuccessful one if you grew up with less than most. Reflect on your past and current money situation and make peace with it. Your bank balance doesn’t define you
2. Focus on similarities, not differences.
There is a reason why a donor or prospect has agreed to meet with you – at the very least they were interested in your organisation’s mission. Existing donors are already on board with you. If you’re passionate about the cause or program you are speaking with them about, they will likely share similar values and interests as you.
3. Focus on these similarities.
Understand what they are talking about when it comes to the stock market, gifting shares, offshore accounts, giving vehicles, earned interest and other financial matters. By understanding their interests, you will be able to serve them to the best of your ability.
4. Share what you have to teach.
Start opening up and sharing your knowledge on particular subjects when speaking with donors and prospects. You have as much to offer them as they do to you. By engaging in thought-provoking conversation, you will build a better relationship, which in turn will see your insecurities lift and your confidence build.
5. Don’t assume you’re the only one struggling to find your place in this world.
Just because someone is well off it doesn’t mean they don’t have personal struggles, be them similar or different to yours. We’re all human after all, most of us trying to find our place one way or another.