Leave Your Fear at the DoorI’ve run into many major gift fundraisers lately who have allowed fear to take them over. I understand it. Many times in my life, I have allowed fear to take hold, causing me either not to do something or to take a hurtful action toward someone in anticipation of something bad happening to me.
But as I get older, through many experiences, I’ve learned not to let fear take over as much. Yes, it rears its ugly head at times, and I find myself falling into old patterns, but I’m learning to let it go and stop it from making me react.
To be blunt, fear is pervasive in non-profit major gift fundraising. Richard and I see this played out every day. Fear keeps organizations from taking bold initiatives. Fear keeps major gift officers from engaging donors and growing their portfolios.
Fear, at its worst, keeps us happy with the comfortable. I see this played out when I delve into major gift data and I see donors in a portfolio who give the same amount year after year after year. Why is that donor, who is in a major gift portfolio, always giving the same? Fear. Not from the donor, but fear from the major gift officer who is comfortable getting that “automatic gift,” assuring them of making a revenue goal.
You should never be comfortable as a major gift officer. Your job is always to help a donor achieve something incredible with their giving. Your fear is that if you challenge your donor to do more, you may lose that annual gift. You make excuse after excuse as to why you shouldn’t ask the donor to do more. Believe me, Richard and I have heard all the excuses.
It all comes down to being afraid. And instead of confronting that fear, you grow comfortable with the donors in your portfolio who provide that “known” revenue for you every year.
It’s not wrong to feel fear. It’s a normal human emotion. It’s what you do with that fear. Ultimately fear is a lie, if you allow it to hold you down. But it can also be a great teacher.
In most cases where a major gift fundraiser is afraid to challenge a donor or inspire them to give in a greater way, it’s usually because you don’t know the donor well enough to have that type of conversation.
So if you ask yourself “why am I afraid of asking this donor to give $10,000 when they always give $5,000?” that may tell you that you haven’t done the work to understand that donor’s interests and passions.
This is my challenge to you. Review your portfolio of your good donors. Which donors do you fear that, if you asked them to increase their giving, they would be offended and stop donating to your organization? Then, be brutally honest with yourself and ask how you could overcome that fear with each of them.
Your organization could do so much more if it had the resources, right? At least that’s what every organization is saying to us. How much of your own fear is preventing those resources from helping expand those services? Sit with that question for a bit.
Then, leave your fear at the door and walk into the room of joy.