Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia

YOU, the major gift fundraiser learning lessons everywhere

In Donors, Fundraising, Major Gifts, Relationship Building on October 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm
The writer with a golden ticket...to the next round

The writer with a golden ticket…to the next round

A few years ago, well, I guess about a decade ago now, I auditioned for a reality show. I don’t say that out loud very often, but there YOU have it. In 2004, my friends “challenged” me to put myself out there doing something I loved: singing.

I wasn’t a recording artist, or a Broadway show stopper. I was someone who just liked to sing with the radio, or in the shower, when my friends started asking me to sing in their weddings. Being on TV and hoping millions of Canadians voted for me was never my dream.

Auditioning for Canadian Idol (the process was three auditions over the course of one day) – in retrospect – has made me a better fundraiser. It was a cultivation process for the creators of the show; trying to figure out who they would put on stage and support.

There are several lessons to be learned from the experience. Here are my top three:

Overcoming insecurities: Just by stepping into the audition room, I went from amateur to professional. Many who were auditioning with me, were seasoned professionals. And even though I had a few registry signing singing performances under my belt, I felt I wasn’t good enough to be heard from.

It’s how I sometimes feel as I prep for meetings with major gift donors or senior volunteers. “Why,” I ask myself, “Would they want to hear from me?” YOU don’t have to be an extrovert (which I mostly am) to have these insecurities. Fundraisers just need to have passion, knowledge and the opportunity to earn a stakeholders support.

Listening to criticism: One of the saddest moments of trying out for a talent reality show is stepping into the bathroom after the first round of auditions. Every stall, every sink, every inch of floor either a crying contestant or a supportive friend.

There were hundreds of people auditioning that day, just like there are several organizations that appeal to the same major donors. It’s hard in the moment, but hearing criticism (or asking for feedback) about your organization, or the ask, or your project is tough. But actually listening to it, will only help YOU in the future.

My second audition of the day at Idol was brutal. Everything about my first performance was broken down and discussed. But I listened, and I made it to round three.

Now, when I hold a meeting with a potential major gift donor, I always ask the senior volunteer or my Executive Director (whoever came with me) to give me feedback once the meeting is over. Did I speak too quickly (a definite trait of mine)? Did I answer the questions asked of me, how was my body language, how was my language in general (not that I swear like a sailor in meetings, but did I use internal language too much?)

Relationship building/Friend-raising: My final audition of the day came almost 10 hours after the first. I no longer was shy or nervous, I was invested in succeeding. This was evident the moment I stepped in front of the producers, production crew and cameras. I had to make these people my friends. They had to believe in me and my (new found) goal of becoming the next great Canadian talent out of Nova Scotia (Sorry Ms. Anne Murray, excuse me Rita MacNeil, outta my way Rankin Family!)

Fundraising author Penelope Burke has said that when a fundraiser speaks to donors, “…it doesn’t matter your age or experience, YOU should just be interesting.” I went in to that last Idol audition prepared to let them see who Sarah really was: someone who was smart, liked to smile and could sing.

At the end of my audition I had everyone laughing, but my voice wasn’t Idol ready. No problem I said and thanked them for their time. As I was leaving I could hear them talk, “She’s funny.” “Great personality.” “Awesome girl.”

I left not with a title, but with people who supported me.

When I meet potential major gift donors, I really have to work hard on letting them see my personality, my expertise, my passion. It’s easy to be the staff person who seems to tag along and nods their head in agreement with everything that’s said in the meeting.

If YOU have gotten over your insecurity and listened to feedback, YOU know that YOU are not only prepared to be in that meeting, but YOU are the expert there, on how to help that donor change the trajectory of the cause your organization fights for.

As a fundraiser YOU have passion; there’s an argument for the fact that it is in our DNA, our need to make the world a better place. YOU also have passion for many other things. Maybe it’s cooking, running, reading or singing. What lessons can YOU learn from those to help YOU be the best fundraiser YOU can be?

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  1. Awesome!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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