With all of the weirdness and cynicism that seems to be encompassing our world today, it’s easy to forget that, generally speaking, people still love to be generous. And it’s a good thing too… there seems to be an endless supply of different charitable groups and causes that you can give to. Whether it’s a fundraiser to benefit your local animal shelter, a benefit to help a family in the community to pay for unexpected medical expenses, or… you name it! If you feel strongly about any given thing, chances are there is someone raising funds to benefit that person, place, or thing.
So, if that’s the case – why does it always seem weird to ask for money to benefit these worthy causes? It does feel weird though, doesn’t it? Even in situations where you have a captive audience that have come to your event, or visited your website, or liked your social media posts – the ask for a donation is kind of buried pretty deep in the presentation. To successfully raise funds you have to build out a “story” or create an elaborate framework that sets up the big “ask”. It’s a bit like a sales pitch.
I guess at the heart of the matter – that’s kind of what it is…a sales pitch. You gather your evidence, you create a strategy, you come up with a few solutions to whatever problem your charity is looking to address, then you make your presentation. Once that’s all over, you ask for a contribution. So – you’re making a sales pitch. But, that’s weird – right? I mean, you have people that are coming to you with the expectation of giving towards your cause, but you still have to “entertain” them. Well, maybe “entertain” isn’t the right word. But you certainly have to compel them in some way – elicit strong feelings to help encourage them to give generously.
And, maybe I’m wrong – maybe for you it’s not weird to ask for a contribution to your charity. But for some of us it is. For some of us, we’re so close to the cause and it is such an integral part of who we are and it matters so much to us that asking for money for the charity feels like we’re asking for a contribution to us personally. It can be very humbling – which it absolutely should be! You are, after all, asking someone else to, in some way – adopt your perspective in a meaningful way.
I sometimes wonder if the big productions and the large fundraising events are a way to put some “buffer” or “cushion” between the cause and the sometimes awkward nature of asking for a donation. That’s why there is such a big build up at these events – you’re working your way up to the “ask”. And, fair enough – it is a lot easier to ask for a contribution after you’ve given something of worth or value to an audience. Not to mention, it gives others the opportunity to lend themselves to the cause in other ways – their time and talents!
So, what can you do about the discomfort that you might feel about asking for a donation? The first thing you should probably do is identify exactly why it’s awkward for you to begin with. Here are a few reasons that I can think of…
- You’re anxious because of the uncertainty of how the conversation can go when asking for a donation.
- You don’t feel that you are fully prepared for questions about your cause that might arise when asking someone for a donation.
- You’ve experienced a situation where you’ve asked someone to make a contribution to your cause and it didn’t go well.
Those are just a few instances off the top of my head that could lead to anxiety – at least from my point of view. So let’s tackle those and see if they can be resolved.
I know that for me, uncertainty is probably the single biggest cause of anxiety. My personality causes me to overthink things and to have a desire to have some level of control over any given situation. So, the more control I have, the more comfortable I tend to be.
If that sounds like you, grab a couple of friends and try some role-playing. Have them try different scenarios with you so that you work out how you’re going to respond, should different situations arise in “real life”. Have someone respond in a negative and belligerent way. Maybe try having your role-playing partner play the part of an overly eager and talkative donor. Though it’s impossible to cover every scenario that might arise, having practiced just a few of them can make you feel more prepared.
You don’t feel educated enough about your cause
This is a big one, but it’s also a fairly simple one to address. For most of us, it’s pretty natural to not want to run head-first into things that we don’t know enough about. At least not on our own.
No one wants to look ignorant or uneducated about what they are representing. So educate yourself! Dig in and find out what exactly you’re raising funds for and what has happened to make it necessary to raise funds for it. If it happens to be a cause that is seen by some as controversial or divisive in some way, be sure that you go the extra mile to understand the full scope of the issue. You should be educated in a way that allows you to speak intelligently about your cause without resorting to a stand-offish or negative posture. One good way to do this is to think, and I mean really think, about the cause and come up with at least 5 strong reasons why your cause is worthy of consideration. Only having one or two reasons will leave you susceptible to being dismissed when faced with opposition.
A good way to get the knowledge that you need to feel comfortable with your cause is by being around those that have the knowledge and are confident in sharing it. “On-the-job training” is one of the quickest and most thorough ways of getting the experience you need to be comfortable presenting your cause. So, find a “mentor” and learn as much as you can.
Previous Bad Experience
Our own experiences play so much into everything that we do, so it should come as no surprise that having had a bad experience when presenting your cause would have a negative impact on you wanting to do so again. So, the question comes into play – if the experience was that bad, was it so bad that the cause is no longer worth it to you? I don’t mean for that to sound like your cause of choice is so easily dismissed, but it’s certainly worth thinking about. Going back to the last section, do you have 5 strong reasons? And if you do – are they strong enough for you to stay with it without developing an attitude of resentment towards those who opposed your cause? If the answer to those questions are yes – then you just have to find your few moments of courage and forge ahead! “Get back on the horse” – as they say!
Every situation is different and most donor audiences are different and have their own ways and attitudes about them. Hopefully these small insights can help you approach your donor base with more confidence in your cause. We all know that “no” is not the worst thing that someone can say when you ask for a donation, but with some preparation you can certainly be better prepared to handle whatever comes up in a way that brings dignity to yourself and to your cause.
Now, the flipside to all of that, maybe asking for donations feels weird because you haven’t done it enough. Chances are, if you’re sincere with your request, people will respond positively. Remember, in general, people love to be generous! Engaging potential donors is a great way to make this big world a little bit smaller and it’s a great opportunity to spread some goodwill around. Don’t think of asking for a donation as simply soliciting funds from someone – look at it as an opportunity to partner with that person. A donor that feels like they are part of the solution, that they are really helping to make a difference, will be much more dedicated to the cause. Remember, it doesn’t just take money to get things done, it requires that like-minded individuals come together and put in the work.