I’m an introvert.
No, really, I am.
There are a fair number of us working in development who aren’t all that outgoing, and the more I talk to people, the more this seems to really strike a chord, so I thought I’d share some of my own personal tips for fundraising for introverts.
Even if you’re not an introvert, chances are good you’ve got some on your Board or on your volunteer list, and understanding how they tick will help you support them to be successful.
First, we have to understand what being an introvert is and isn’t. Then we can begin fundraising for introverts.
Introvert or not?
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy. Being shy is different, along with a whole lot of other attributes you may have, and these complicate things. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you don’t like people or that you’re stuck up. It just means you get your energy from alone time.
Personally, I find that being in big crowds for too long really zaps my energy. So does a lot of noise and commotion. I think that’s one reason why I’m not a big fan of rock concerts or sporting events. I’d much rather enjoy those from my couch, where there’s no line at the concession stand or the bathroom.
We typically think of an extrovert as someone very outgoing and talkative, the veritable life of the party, where introverts are the wallflowers of the world. True enough for me – at a party or a networking event, I’m likely to be on the periphery having a meaningful conversation with one person, not mixing and mingling to meet everyone.
The truth is that extroverts get their energy from being around people where introverts gotta have alone time to recharge. If an extrovert also craves attention or let’s their ego guide them, they’re likely to want the spotlight.
Likewise, an introvert who is also shy and unsure of themselves or a perfectionist isn’t very likely to put themselves out there or take on a leadership role.
Introvert, extrovert or ambivert?
There’s actually a new category of ‘vert – the ambivert.
Very few people are 100% introvert or extrovert. We all have a little of both in us.
If you put these on a spectrum, most people fit somewhere in the middle, in a zone called ambivert.
For example, you may be an outgoing introvert. You like talking with people as long as you have plenty of quiet time. Or maybe you’re fine being with people as long as they’re people you know and like – you just don’t like being with strangers.
You can take the quiz to see where you fit on the spectrum at www.lonerwolf.com.
Fundraising for Introverts
Whether you’re truly an introvert or just have some introverted tendencies, you need to raise money. And being with people is a critical part of donor-based fundraising.
Let’s look at the various fundraising strategies and what it takes to be successful.
Most introverts either do fundraising from their desk or anything that’s 1-to-many, depending on their strengths. There’s nothing wrong with either, but the big money is in the upper right corner, which can be very scary for introverts, especially those who are fearful about asking or are avoiding rejection.
The trick is in stretching. If your comfort zone is the lower left corner, the best thing you can do is learn to stretch up to direct appeals, grants, and monthly giving, or stretch to the right to events and speaking gigs.
It’s close to impossible to stretch from the lower left corner to the upper right. It’s just too far outside your comfort zone. The only way you’ll be successful is to have the support or a mentor or coach.
By the way, most Board members operate in that lower left box. This is why they all disappear when you ask them to ask their friends for money. It’s too big of a stretch for them.
So, how do you stretch?
Stretching outside the comfort zone
If you’re a runner or have ever seen a runner warm up, you know that stretching comes first. It loosens up the muscles, prepares you for the activity, and helps you avoid injury.
You need the same thing as a fundraiser.
Start by identifying your strengths. What are you really good at?
If you’re a great writer, then you’re probably doing direct appeal, grants, newsletters, and such. You might be able to stretch into some speaking gigs if you can tell stories as well as you write them. Starting with a small civic club or church group might be a great way to get your feet wet.
Or, if you’re ready to stretch into that upper right box of personal asks, start by just spending time with one of your top donors. Invite them to coffee and ask for their advice about a program or project. Bring them in for a tour of your facility so they can see first-hand what’s happening. These are pretty low-risk activities that actually can pay big dividends in building relationships.
My default as an introverted fundraiser was to get really good at the stuff I could do from my desk, behind my computer. First, I mastered grants, then I got really good at direct mail. But I knew at some point I needed to start cultivating major donors. And that thought terrified me.
But after attending conferences and hearing about best practices, I knew I needed to start getting face-to-face with donors. So I called one of my biggest donors and asked her to lunch. She said “yes” and I had another panic attack – I didn’t know what I was supposed to do at the lunch. The good news is that I survived it. I’m sure it wasn’t the smoothest donor experience she’d ever had, but it was a great learning experience for me. And boy was it a big stretch for me!
Interestingly, after stretching like that once, it was easier to do it the second time.
Here are some ideas for activities that might just stretch you outside your comfort zone:
- Hand-written note
- Birthday card
- Thank-you call
- Personal thank-you video
- Personal tour of your facility
- Meet for coffee
- Meet for lunch
- Special invite to an event
- Advice visit
The key to stretching is to purposefully do something that you wouldn’t normally do, to move you in the direction of your goals.
And if you do it consistently, you’ll raise more money.
That’s how you become successful at fundraising for introverts.