Happy New Year! Now more than ever, we must tap into our individual and collective reservoirs of courage to make positive changes in our world. As we transition into the new year, I invite you to rethink how to get resources flowing to your work and to hit the ground running to make 2017 an impactful, generative, resourceful and meaningful year.
When asking for feedback on how Exponential Fundraising has made a difference in people’s work, there are several key elements that are frequently shared as easy, but critical steps in shifting how to engage others. I encourage you to reflect on how you might integrate them into your own work:
Ø Make an Ask a Day – Asking is a simple, but critical muscle to develop. When you start to make at least one ask a day (which doesn’t have to be a financial ask, you can also ask people to give their time, their expertise, access to the networks, their advice, etc) – it gets you in the habit of inviting others to be a part of your work. A friend once brilliantly said the ask simply requires “20 seconds of courage.” Try it! Write yourself a reminder and hold yourself accountable for at least one ask a day.
Ø Consider your philanthropic team “partners” instead of “donors” – Try removing the word “donor” from your lexicon. It has such narrow and confined connotations. Instead, use the word “partner” – both in words and intention – and explore how that changes way you connect and work with others.
Ø Don’t use the word “Help” – Similarly, the word “help” can create a power dynamic putting you, the person asking for something, in a position that feels less than equal. Instead, ask people to join you in your work.
Ø Plan a small group “Jeffersonian”-style dinner – Reinvigorate your board and current partners, plus invite new perspective collaborators to the conversation, by organizing an intimate, whole-table conversation. Ask questions that encourage participants to share personal stories, and then connect those shared values to your work. For more on Jeffersonian Dinners.
Ø Stay focused on your work as more than just a job – Ask yourself, why am I called to do this work? Practice telling your story and share it with others. It’s our relationship to our work, even more than the kind of work we do, that matters. The more we experience our work as a calling, the more we experience the personal meaning it has for us: what we stand for and what difference we can make. It insulates us from a sense of isolation, stress, and fatigue and allows us to better tolerate the “job” aspects of our work.
Ø Don’t put money at the center of a relationship – Keep the work itself at the center of your relationships. While money is a necessary, vital resource, remember it’s just the gas that goes in the car, not the car, not the driver, and not the destination.
Ø Remember your courage! Go into every meeting standing up, never kneeling down – You are offering people an opportunity to join with you and your community to make critical changes in our world and to participate in your vision. It is the exact opposite of begging! You can never be rejected. If you ask someone to join with you and they say, “I love your work, but my passion is working on the oceans,” say, “Great!” This is a victory for the world, not a rejection of you. So ask. Ask. Ask!
Integrating these simple tools and perspectives into your fundraising practices will have a dramatic impact on your work. If you are interested in diving deeper into Exponential Fundraising, learn more here.