You know that Richard and I write a lot about how fundraisers create stories in their heads about donors. We feel it’s one of the biggest barriers to engaging donors, developing real relationships and realizing transformational gifts.

It’s why we see either very high value attrition rates from one year to the next, or we see donors (while very loyal) giving the same amount year after year – and they’re giving transformational gifts somewhere else.

Negative self-talk is a real thing. It has the power to hurt not only your relationships with donors but also your career as a front-line fundraiser. (Tweet it!)

Recently, one of our Client Experience Leaders, Theresa Taposci, sent me an article by Art Petty, published in SmartBrief titled, “Success as a leader demands strong self-talk.” And, yes, we view front-line fundraisers as leaders.

I learned quite a bit from this article. Did you know that we have around 6,000 unique thoughts every day? And most of those thoughts are negative. In one study they found that it’s 80:20, 80% negative, 20% positive. As the article suggests, “If that number is even in the zip code of accurate, the biggest adversary we face in our lives is staring back at you in the mirror.”

Have you heard yourself thinking something like this?

  • “I can’t call that donor today, they’ll probably be busy.”
  • “This donor doesn’t want to give more; they just like to give the same amount every year.”
  • “I don’t know enough about the donor to suggest that we have a Zoom call.”
  • “If I recommend an estate gift, they might get offended that I’m suggesting they’re going to die soon.”
  • “If this donor really cared about us, they would be giving more.”
  • “This donor is too powerful and successful for her to want to talk with me.”
  • “I can’t meet with this donor on my own; they’re too wealthy for me to relate to.”

Look, we’re all human and we have doubts and fears. But, as Petty suggests, “effective leaders learn to funnel the doubts and fears into something more constructive. They use a variation of the Active Reset process.”

He goes on to say, “Seizing control of your self-talk track and learning to stop negative thoughts before they gain too much momentum takes discipline and repetition. I employ an Active Reset approach when the negative thought train starts rolling. (Note: this is my variation of the great guidance provided by many with Dr. in their title.)

  1. Stop and acknowledge: “Stop it! This is negative thinking.”
  2. Question: “Why am I thinking this way? What evidence do I have that supports the negative?”
  3. Reframe: “How can I reposition this issue and look for the opportunity?”
  4. Act: “Here’s what I’ll do.”

And the step that grooves this into our brain and makes this a repeatable behavior:

  1. Reflect: “What did I learn from turning my negative thought into a positive opportunity?” Use your professional journal.

As a front-line fundraiser, you have an awesome responsibility to both your organization and the donor. If you can allow yourself to move through your negative self-talk and confront your doubts and fears, and you make it an ongoing practice – over time you’ll break through and help take your donors to a new level of joy in their giving.