One of the common conversations in our members-only Facebook community is frustration with bosses or board members making damaging decisions about fundraising — like cutting a multi-page letter down to one page.
It’s common. You’ve probably experienced it too. You aren’t alone!
The good news is, there are ways to change minds about how you do fundraising. You can fight for doing things right, the fact-backed way — and do so without losing your job.
Next time an authority at your organization tells you to do something in fundraising you are sure will result in less donor engagement and lower revenue, try these four steps…
Yes, it’s necessary. You’re frustrated, the situation is all wrong, and you are being blocked from accomplishing your goals.
You need to yell.
Go ahead and vent. Just do it in a safe place. If you are part of an online community of fundraisers like The Fundraisingology Lab (unless someone you’re frustrated with is also part of the community) vent there. Describe the situation. Complain, cry, kvetch. You’ll get a sympathetic hearing from others who’ve been where you are. You might even get helpful advice.
But mostly, a good rant can be an important step away from raw frustration, so you can move forward and seek a solution.
I hope you got it out of your system because now comes the part that can be hard: Getting on their side.
No matter how frustrating what they’ve done might be, it’s almost certain they aren’t trying to wreck your fundraising on purpose.
They don’t think they’re killing the fundraising. They think they’re making it better.
But without training or experience, all they have to go on is their gut sense of what “should” work — or what they believe they would respond to. You and I know those things don’t give you good information for fundraising. They don’t know that.
They’re doing their best.
Get into their mindset. When you reframe the way you see what they’re doing, you can address the solution in a positive, non-confrontational way.
Okay, you vented, and then got into a calmer and more charitable mindset. Now the real test: Talk to them. Change their minds.
The most important thing is to keep the conversation calm and fact-based. Here are the ways to communicate:
- Show it in writing. Print out a blog post. Show it on the pages of a book. People find it easier to believe things that are “published.”
- Describe your own experience with the issue.
- Cite experts by name. Chances are that the person you’re talking with hasn’t heard of the fundraising experts. That’s okay. Name names.
- Sympathize. Tell them you used to disbelieve this fact too. Let them know you aren’t judging them for their misgivings. We’ve all had them.
You won’t always win them over. But even when you don’t, you’re doing something important: You’re showing them that you do what you do on purpose. They may think you wrote that four-page letter because you were too pressed for time to edit it down to a single page. Even if you can’t talk them into changing their mind, you’re showing them that you are doing your work wide-awake and fact-informed.
Even when you “lose the argument,” you are improving the ground for the next discussion.
4. Equip yourself
This is actually the first and last step, something you do all the time. Most people are open to listening to experts. And it’s your job to be an expert. That means you are a serious student of the profession of fundraising.
- Read the blogs. There are a lot of them. Keep posts that are especially relevant to share later.
- Read the books. There are a lot of them too, well-researched books based on decades of evidence. Have a small library of them at your fingertips!
- Go to conferences. They can be energizing and packed with useful material.
- Belong to a community of other fundraisers. This is especially important. It not only gives you a safe place to rant when you need to (step #1), but a place to ask questions and get support from others who know what you’re going through.
- Get permission to try things your way. As an “experiment.” If you have a large enough quantity, make it an A/B test. If you don’t have the quantity to test (most of us don’t), get permission to try it this year.
I can’t guarantee that these steps will always work. It’s hard for people to change their minds. It’s even harder for people in authority — after all, their job is to make decisions. But your chance of success is always better when you approach the challenge calmly, with a positive mindset, and with facts.
Want to super-charge your expertise and “win” more in these difficult situations? Start by scheduling a free 25-minute call with one of our Fundraisingologists. They will give you great free advice, and help you identify which Coaching+ program might be right for you. Click here to book your call.
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