I Don’t Want to Ask for Money

I get really frustrated when people talk about how much they dislike being asked for money and dislike fundraisers. Many times I hear people alluding to “those awful development officers” that are always harassing people. That actually hurts to hear, I didn’t get into development to piss people off and annoy them. And from the experience I’ve had almost everyone I talk to is not offended or frustrated by our conversations.

I see development as providing people with opportunities not soliciting for funds. Is that just semantics or is it really a different model? I can talk about a “brilliant new idea” of All Donors as Major Donors but in practicality am I really changing my philosophy? In the end of the day we are all accountable to how we work with and treat those that partner with us in our work… the donor.

How do you feel about being on the other side of giving? I have been surprised when I’ve had someone call me with a request for money. Sometimes I’m totally supportive of it and excited and other times it makes me frustrated too. Is that because I’m seeing my own fundraising styles and evaluating against another person’s fundraising styles? Maybe I have too many insights into the process and I’m thinking too hard.

Have you had a similar experience? Does it ever bother you when people express frustration with fundraising professionals?

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8 Responses to I Don’t Want to Ask for Money

  1. It’s not always possible to determine why someone says no. What if they believe in your cause yet they don’t have any money to give. This could be embarrassing for them and they could hide their embarrassment through frustration. You just never know the reasons so you have to remain courteous. Additionally, you are the frontman for the organization you are trying to raise money for. Your passion and professionalism could be the only brand identity these non-donors have for your organization. Stay positive and they may come around at a later date.

    Fundraising is basically sales where the product is helping others and the reward is the you are “Making the World a Better Place”. Remember, you can’t win them all but you can win some. If only 10% of the people give $10 then you can potentially raise $100,000 if you make the effort to contact 100,000 people. Also, if you only raise $10 you’ve raised 10 more dollars than a lot of people. If you raise no money you’ve still raised awareness for your charity. It’s a win-win at every level.

  2. Patrick says:

    Definitely have had this experience before. It can be offensive although I don’t know that people always intend it the way that it sounds. I haven’t been in this profession an incredibly long time, but one thing I noticed right away was the attack mode many fundraising professionals are always in; and the ‘used car salesman’ attitude that exits. I think its awful and do everything in my power as a professional to not set off either of those vibes. What you say is semantics, but its important. The way you feel, that your giving an opportunity, generally means you approach the donor with a greater level of respect than the person selling a cause.

    An example from where I live that drives me crazy and promotes the attitude from donors is when our local professional development organization has an event where foundation reps speak about their organization and its guidelines. After its over they are inundated with business cards and questions about how a certain program might fit with their areas of interest. It feels as if no one in the room listened to them talk and is going to use that 30 seconds to solicit a $50k gift. Its embarrassing…

  3. Linda says:

    I have a knee jerk reaction to people telling me they hate asking for or being asked for money. Internally, I get frustrated but more and more I am trying to ask that person (fellow staff member, board member, friend) to tell me a little bit more about that. What don’t they like about asking for money? What really irks them when people ask them? Have they ever had a good experience of giving?

    I don’t agree that fundraising is basically sales (not that there is anything wrong with sales!) but I do believe that the two share skill sets. I believe, like you, that asking someone to support a cause, agency or campaign is giving them an opportunity. To me, the opportunity is not just “to make the world a better place” but to build community based on shared values. I want my donors to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. That their check, along with each check we receive, is an indication of their commitment to the values the organization holds true. I have seen this idea bring spark to the eyes of the most reluctant board member who has to ask for money. It’s a shifting of paradigm. I’ll have to go read your post on all donors are major donors…

    I give in my limited way – sporadically and in small amounts – and I have never been treated badly. I love being asked, particularly by folks who are not shy about asking a few times in the course of a conversation. Even if I have to say no out of sheer lack of funds. Most people think I am strange because of my attitude around money, fundraising and asking. I believe that sharing our resources is how we ultimately change the world. Money, unfortunately or fortunately depending on who you talk to, is probably the most powerful resource most people have the ability to give.

    I do agree that each time you ask, its a win-win. I am fond of the RMM saying “bless and release” as well.

  4. Linda says:

    Just wanted to add and I would love to hear others’ experience with this – It seems like there is a huge hurdle of apathy and cynicism (particularly in Generation X, my generation) to communicating about giving in this way. How do we get over that hurdle? I think that a lot of the frustration people express about fundraisers comes from looking at us like car salesmen, not to be trusted.

    I have been working to change this attitude within my organization’s staff and board with good results but it takes time, like all quality fundraising. I would like to change this attitude in my community on a larger level. That is more difficult, of course.

  5. Jason says:

    Patrick I have had your same experience where a foundation or business person speaks at an event about their organization and then all of the fundraisers run up to the front to exchange cards. It is kind of comical I’ve found in those environments if I really have a question I’ll stay in my seat and wait for the crowd to die down a little bit and then ask them the question later.

    Linda great words I have found the attitude change in my organization as a result of relationship building. The more time I’ve spent getting to know people and talking about the organization and listening to the donor’s response the less frustrated people seem to be when they are actually asked. To me one of the big keys is listening and remembering what the donor says and actually asking them questions. Too often we have a “boxed tour” that we bring them on where we do all of the talking.

  6. The “ask” should be a natural progression of the relationship. It can’t be forced. A lot of the “no’s” are the result of poorly developed relationships, not apathy. Get mission buy in first. The money will follow.

  7. You raise an interesting issue here. Too many people do not understand that development [fundraising if you must] is a process. It is not solely about “asking” for money, although that is a significant measure by which development professionals are measured. Development is about relationship building, not only cultivating the initial relationship, but deepening it. I used to think it was “asking for money” that was the issue. I’ve since revised that thinking somewhat when I realized there are many, many people who fear deepening a relationship. Once long ago, I found a terrific piece of writing that described the various levels of relationships [there are basically five] and most relationships exist at the most superficial level. As we deepened the relationship, people allow themselves to be more open and vulnerable. That is the process where “things begin to gel” and deepen.

    It is a sad reality that we live in a world of sound bytes. If something takes longer than a blink to communicate, it all too often goes unheard. That is a tragedy. As in all of life, we must take time if relationships are to unfold to the point where people are truly communicating at a meaningful level. And, a part of communicating is learning the art of active listening.

    You are correct; the bottom line in all of this discussion about relationships is receiving a donation. But, is that really the bottom line? Or, is it allowing a donor/stakeholder to personalize the experience so that s/he feels deeply committed to the organization, involved to the point of wanting to actively participate beyond writing a check? I think it’s time we take stock of where we are, what we are doing, why we are doing what we are doing and assess whether that path is what we have chosen.

    Feeling a commitment, a passion, a connection. Experiencing the quality of a meaningful relationship, to my way of thinking, is what makes a development professional worth their weight in gold. I cannot think of a more “awful” endeavor in which to participate. If I am truly successful in building and deepening that relationship, it can, indeed, be awe-inspiring. Ergo “awe-ful” — not a bad way to go.

  8. Roger Carr says:

    There is a difference between “soliciting for funds” and “providing an opportunity.”

    When we solicit for funds, the focus is primarily on getting the money now. There is less concern about whether the mission of the organization is a good match to the person’s passions. There is also not much attention given to relationship building.

    By providing an opportunity, we are connecting the potential donor with a mission they support. The focus is on the mission of the organization and whether that mission is important to the person. Relationships are naturally built when the focus is on the mission and whether that mission is a match to the potential donor’s passions.

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