QUICK SHOT: 3 common fundraising fears and how to face them

Overcoming these fears is the key to your organization’s success

Remember the anxious feeling you had as a child stepping into a spooky, pitch-black room? Or as an adult, the clammy hands you have when you’re about to give a big presentation to an important audience?

Fears are part of life at all ages. Quite likely, the advice we heard from those who were older and wiser was “Face your fears. Get out there and do what you need to do!”

In my nearly 30 years of fundraising, I’ve heard organizations voice the same fears and concerns often. It’s not easy asking other people to spend their hard-earned money… You want to be effective but worry things could go wrong. So let’s tackle these 3 most common nonprofit fundraising fears and learn how to face them today…  

FEAR #1 – Am I asking too often?

This fear is the big one. No doubt it’s possible to ask donors too often, but most organizations are not at that point (some are not even close). 

Here are 3 perspective shifts that can help alleviate your worries as you face your fears:

  • Communications with an ask show your organization in action. If well-crafted, appeals for support show your organization changing lives and making the world better. This is exactly what your donors want you to do. Your communications are evidence to them that you’re using their dollars as intended and you need more to keep up the good work.
  • Most donors do not review your communications closely. You, as a fundraiser, pore over every word. But your donors skim your messages, at best, and may not even notice many of your communications. The reality is that they are not receiving as many asks as you think.
  • Out of sight, out of mind. Think of a friend you never hear from. Are you as close to that person as you are with friends who communicate with you frequently? Probably not. It’s the same with nonprofit organizations and their donors. If you want to keep your donors engaged, communicate with them regularly – including frequent asks.

FEAR #2 – We send the same messages over and over – donors must be getting sick of them.

As someone inside your organization, you know the multi-faceted nature of your work and want to communicate the intricacies to your supporters. However, your donors are most likely interested in a few important services or outcomes your organization provides – and that is what you should focus on in most of your communications. 

The key to facing this fundraising fear is using different stories and providing information from different angles. Don’t be afraid to focus on what your donors love to hear about – time and again. If people are responding to your messages, they’re not sick of hearing about your work and want you to keep doing it.

FEAR #3 – Do my communications make my organization look bad?

You’ve probably noticed that your most effective appeals focus on need. The photos may show people who aren’t smiling. The design may reflect urgency. The writing may speak of problems that quickly need solving. You wonder – Does this reflect badly on my organization? Would supporters rather receive happy stories from us with uplifting designs?

To face this fear, first ensure that you do have a communications plan in place to share success with your donors. This can be a newsletter, your gift receipts and other affirmational pieces. But once you’ve checked that box, don’t be afraid to focus on need in your other communications. 

In short… fear not! 

The problems in this world are exactly why your nonprofit organization exists. It’s reality, and you can’t shy away from it. Be bold about putting your organization on the front lines of confronting the needs in our world today. Your donors will love you for it and respond generously.

These are the top 3 fundraising fears I’ve heard over the years, and learning how to face them is key to any organization’s success. If you would like to discuss these further – or have other concerns you’d like to chat about – please reach out now with your questions. 

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  • James Read VP Creative BDI

    James Read, Senior Vice President, Creative

    For more than 25 years, James has helped nonprofits and cause-driven organizations communicate their world-changing ideas in ways that inspire and motivate people. He has served more than 50 organizations in the United States, Canada and Great Britain, and he helped raise more than a billion dollars. James’s experience includes work for American Red Cross, Muscular Dystrophy Association, World Vision, The Salvation Army and the University of Chicago, along with numerous food banks, rescue missions, cancer centers, humane societies and Christian ministries.

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