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An Abundance Mindset: Your Secret to Success in Fundraising

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Maybe you have parents or grandparents who seem to have a strange relationship with money.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees,” they say, often followed by, “A penny saved is a penny earned” and other annoying, semi-true proverbs. They go to great lengths of time and effort to save the smallest amounts of money. They talk about cost, good deals, bad deals, and ways to shave a few cents off just about any purchase they have to make.

Their attitude is likely because they grew up during the Great Depression — or went through some time of poverty, uncertainty, or suffering that left emotional scars. It shaped their approach to life — and especially money.

That Depression Mentality is a Scarcity Mentality. It may have been appropriate during the Depression and in other situations.

But it’s a mentality that can throttle a business or your personal finances.

And Scarcity Mentality is disturbingly common in nonprofit organizations. It causes immeasurable damage by preventing effective fundraising.

You can beat the Scarcity Mentality by embracing its opposite: an Abundance Mentality.

An Abundance Mentality is not a Pollyanna, unrealistic belief that everything is perfect all the time. It doesn’t mean you believe you always have plenty of everything you need. It means you believe that plenty of everything exists and can be tapped into.

Yes, budgets are tight. And for some, fundraising results are down or may head downward soon. But the more you can adapt a mentality of abundance, the better you’ll do as a fundraiser. And the better you’ll do in life.

Abundance Mentality in Fundraising

Here are some key principles for putting the Abundance Mentality to work in your fundraising program:

  • It takes money to make money. This is the big one. Nonprofits are like any other business. You can’t grow without investing. This means you need to invest in donor acquisition — an activity that normally doesn’t produce immediate profit. But those new donors eventually become highly profitable. It also plays out in direct mail: The absolutely cheapest packs are typically not the most profitable. Add more pages to the letter. Add lift items. Use a bigger envelope. Those things increase cost, but also increase revenue.
  • Don’t focus on ROI. This is another way of saying the same thing. If you’re using ROI as a main indicator of fundraising success, you’ll eventually find that you can improve ROI by depressing net revenue. Big mistake! An abundance mindset is more interested in net revenue.
  • You can’t cut your way to growth. Sometimes it’s necessary to cut costs. But it’s not a sustainable strategy if you want to grow.
  • Think long-term. The longer a donor stays with you, the more profitable they are. The more likely they are to increase their giving, either through larger or more frequent donations. The more likely they are to become highly profitable monthly donors. The more likely to leave your organization in their will. Successful fundraisers play a “long game.”
  • Don’t argue with donors. Fundraising is not about persuading people that your organization is doing great work. It’s about finding like-minded people and showing them that giving to your organization puts their values to work. And then prove to them that they make a difference and they are appreciated. The truth is, no matter how important your cause, it’s not for everyone. Find your people and become one of their favorite outlets for their kindness.
  • Avoid zero-sum thinking. This is the sad but common belief that if someone gets more, someone else must get that exact amount less. We let it block our thinking in several ways:
    • Organizations that are not on the front lines fighting COVID-19 tell themselves that all the donations are going to front line organizations. There’s nothing left for them. So they don’t even try to raise funds.
    • “We raised a lot of money last spring, so we expect to have a poor year end.” This can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    • Some organizations refuse to spend more time or money on their top donors, thinking this means they are taking away from their average donors. You can serve both. Spending more to connect with high-end donors is another way of spending more to get more.
    • Fundraising guilt: zero-sum thinking can lead you to believe that when a donor gives money, they now have less — you’ve impoverished them by the amount of their gift. The reality is, when they give, they end up with more.
    • Some fundraisers have a belief that if they shower their donors with love, that somehow detracts from their love for the people they exist to serve. This is a self-defeating attitude. You can and should love everyone as much as they need and deserve!

The Abundance mindset recognizes that almost every time we give someone a bigger slice of the “pie,” you are actually making the pie bigger, not stealing from someone else.

Abundance Mentality in Life

A lot of the power of Abundance comes from the way you think as a person. Check out these life approaches that can really improve your thinking:

  • Don’t focus on other people’s success. It’s easy to feel that you’re having a crappy life, while everyone else is wealthier, happier, smarter, and better looking. Here’s the truth: Everyone feels that way sometimes. But we all put our best foot forward, so most people seem more prosperous, happy, and in-control than they actually feel. (That no doubt includes you — other people probably think you’re doing better than they are!) This feeling that we’re way behind everyone else is also encouraged by film and entertainment. Everyone on TV has a way better home than normal people do. That’s not reality!
  • Failure is opportunity. Some of the most life-transforming moments come after failure. When things go wrong, look for what you can learn from it. Seek also the possibility for positive change.
  • Practice gratitude. This is universal advice from virtually all faith traditions. Successful, happy people also advise cultivating your thankfulness. Think about the good things in your life and be thankful for them. Counting your blessings can really orient your attitude to a positive and opportunity focused approach. You’ll be happier too.
  • Take care of yourself. We’re all super busy, especially right now. And when you’re busy, zero-sum thinking often encourages us to skimp on self-care — things like getting enough sleep, taking time off, watching your health, and more. Taking care of yourself may feel like it’s “stealing time” from things you’ve got to do, but taking care of yourself pays massive dividends. You end up with more energy, more focus, and sometimes even more time!
  • Share. Ideas, knowledge, encouragement. People who share always end up with more. Those who hold things close face shortages all the time.
  • Be kind. It’s not always easy to be kind to strangers and others. But it makes your day and improves your life. Look for ways to be nice.
  • Stay away from “scarcity people” in your life. You know who I’m talking about. Sometimes you’re stuck with them, but any time it’s possible, avoid the scarcity people. Their attitude pollutes your life. The most important removal might be the organization where you work. If you can’t change a deeply held scarcity mentality, plan your exit strategy. Find a place to work that thinks abundantly. It’s worth the energy it takes to change!

One of the quickest and easiest ways to put abundance to work: Share your thoughts and ideas right now! Comment with your thoughts below. Or join the conversation on our free Facebook community, the Smart Fundraisers’ Forum.

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