A week ago, I had the distinct pleasure of writing my own guest blog post for my friend Brock Warner‘s incredible new blog: www.iamafundraiser.com. You might remember that Brock wrote a guest blog post for What Gives back in April 2012 entitled “Is storytelling really the answer for your charity???” His post includes reflections on his experience giving a TEDx presentation, his thoughts on storytelling in fundraising, and it features a video of his TEDx presentation as well. Please check it out if you haven’t already; it’s excellent!
So of course I jumped at the opportunity to return the favour on his blog, and I wrote a post called “Can an introvert be a good major gift fundraiser?” My introversion is something I think about a lot. It’s not something I’m ashamed of, nor do I think it needs to be worn as a badge of honour. It’s simply a lens through which I can see my behaviours and actions, and it helps me make sense of my unique way of dealing with things. It makes things hard sometimes, yes, but most of the time I see how my introversion is part of my strengths, and that’s what this post is about.
I’d like to share it with you here now, but I encourage you to check out Brock’s blog on a regular basis to see the amazing things he’s cooking up over there. Thanks, Brock!
Pretty soon after I decided I wanted to be a fundraiser, I knew I wanted to be a major gifts fundraiser. Perhaps it was the glamour of it all, or perhaps it was the prospect of looking back one day on the millions I had raised for the causes I worked for. Whatever the reasons, I was sure I wanted to do it.
And then I became a fundraiser, and I got nervous. I noticed how my boss (and a major gift fundraiser) spoke in a loud, commanding voice a lot of the time. I noticed how he seemed to be buddies with everyone he met. I noticed how he never stood off to the side with the rest of the people in our office at events; he was always chatting with people, working the room, etc.
I noticed how I wasn’t doing those things, and then I had a horrifying thought: maybe I can’t be a major gift fundraiser. Maybe my introversion – my need to refuel regularly, my allergy to small talk, my deliberate way of speaking – was my undoing in the career I had so intensely dreamed of having.
But then I had my first opportunity to make an ask for a major gift. I prepared extensively, coached myself, planned the meeting out (including exactly what parking lot I would park in), and arrived early enough to save a good table and take a few deep breaths. That’s when I realized that just like extroversion can be a perfect quality for fundraisers, so can introversion!
A one-on-one ask is my perfect scenario. Here I am with a fascinating individual, with a passion for my organization, an interesting life story (everyone has one), and a philanthropic spirit so strong that this person is willing to part with hard-earned money for the sake of a cause they believe in.
My job is to talk to them, learn about their passions, and align them with our priorities. I’m meant to get to know them, ask questions, but mostly just listen. Listening is something I’m great at, as an introvert; it fuels me.
So the introverts among us, don’t despair! Your qualities of quietness, sincerity, and thoughtfulness, and your love for deep conversations and socializing in small groups are perfect traits in a major gifts fundraiser. Just like extroverts’ traits of boundless energy and a love for people are great traits for major gifts fundraisers, too.
Work well with what you have, because it’s perfect for what you need to do!
Written by Maeve Strathy
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.