One Cause of Fundraising Anxiety

April 14, 2023

Anxiety is all around us. We are more keenly aware of the consequences than we have ever been — the pandemic surely did not help matters. As fundraisers, however, much of our life is based around money. But anxiety about money is a learned behavior, and therefore, we can unlearn it. If you are ever around children (or young adults, as in my case), you know that they have no trouble asking for anything, especially money. In fact, if you say no to a child’s request for money, they will simply ask again, or rephrase their request. (“I promise not to ask for anything again. Can I puh-lease have some money for {insert here}.”)

Unnatural Attitudes

Our attitudes towards how we think and feel about money have been taught. None of it is natural. None of it is genetic. In fact, in many countries around the world, people talk freely about money. They openly discuss what they earn, how much they paid for things, and they do not consider it rude to ask others about salaries and costs. I have seen this firsthand when interacting with folks from Europe. It really made me wonder why there is a big “bug-a-boo” about money in North America.

Growing Up

Our parents taught us we consider it rude to talk about money or to ask for it, except under very limited circumstances. They taught many of us that money is a private affair. Having too little or too much can be a source of shame and embarrassment. Yet money is also a source of status and power. Most people would like to have more money, yet most will also admit that money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness. It is a true dichotomy.

As adults, we sometimes throw out the lessons our folks taught us as kids in favor of our own, usually as a show of rebellion. Sometimes the mores have turned and we need to reexamine what we understood as norms. Many of us, over the last number of decades, have changed our thinking about sex and sexuality, about race, about age, about illness and disability, about religion, about marriage, about what foods are healthy, and much more. Believe it or not folks, there was a time when doctors smoked cigarettes at a hospital patient’s bedside! We have changed our thinking as we have learned more, as we have experienced more, or as we have thought about what we value and what we do not. This same critical thinking has to occur with our attitudes toward money. We can choose attitudes that make sense and that promote our health and well-being.

Fundraising Anxiety is a Subset of Money Anxiety

Our attitudes toward fundraising are a subset of our larger attitudes toward money. The most important change we can make in our attitudes toward fundraising is to remember that you should define success in fundraising by how many people you ask, rather than how much money you raise. This is because some people are going to say no, which is “par for the course”. The more people you ask, the more “yes” answers you will eventually get. I have often said that when I look at a struggling campaign, my first question is “What is the total value of asks”? If it is a $10 million campaign and all you’ve asked for is $10 million, you will not hit the goal.

If you are anxious about asking for money or would rather not ask, know that this is normal. But ask yourself if what you believe in is bigger than what you are anxious about. Keep focused on your commitment to the cause and that will propel you past your doubts, fears, and anxieties.

I have also found that volunteer canvassers who are anxious around asking others to donate usually have a deeper issue with their own gift. They may be uneasy with their own personal gift and, as a result, may be apprehensive about asking someone else to make a stretch gift, something they were unwilling to do.

So, at the end of things, you may not eliminate anxiety completely, but addressing the source of anxiety may be a good first step.

Until next week.