Guides & Resources

AFP LEAD: Introverts Unite—Combating Imposter Syndrome

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Introverts aren’t necessarily the individuals you might immediately think of as fundraisers, and yet so many fundraisers are introverts.

At AFP LEAD, the fundraising community’s conference on leadership in all its forms, Vinney Arora, Ann-Marie Meacham, MPA, CFRE, and Matthew Siegel, CFRE will present a thought-provoking presentation on introverts and addressing the imposter syndrome.

AFP asked them about their session, the imposter syndrome and what participants will learn.

Q: Your session is “Introverts Unite: Combating Imposter Syndrome When You Really Want to Go Home.” Let’s start with the basics: what is imposter syndrome?

A: Imposter syndrome is really a pattern of feelings where someone feels inadequate and carries self-doubt about themselves and their accomplishments. According to Harvard Business Review, “ ‘imposters’ seem unable to internalize their accomplishments, however successful they are in their field.” In the workplace, it often presents itself as feeling that one is not good at their job, not in the right profession, or otherwise just out of place.

Q: Are introverts more likely to suffer imposter syndrome? If so, why?

A: Introverts are very likely to experience imposter syndrome in the nonprofit sector, especially when it comes to development work. Introverts are often required to be “on” when it comes to donor relations. Donor meetings, galas, networking events: it all adds up. When introverts see their extroverted colleagues “working a room,” it can lead to that feeling of inadequacy and being out of place. And because we tend to internalize every aspect of our work—every conversation, every interaction—events are typically exhausting.

Q: What can we do about overcoming imposter syndrome? Are there particular ideas or activities that are unique to introverts?

A: One important thing to remember is that not everyone is perfect and overcoming imposter syndrome will take practice. A magical cure doesn’t exist for overcoming imposter syndrome or for becoming an extrovert. It’s important to first step outside of your comfort zone, and then to do it again. Research has shown that we make the most progress and experience the most growth when we are feeling just a tad bit uncomfortable. In a sense, we have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Q: Can colleagues, friends, family help with overcoming imposter syndrome? If so, how?

A: First, it’s important to speak up and break the silence. Being an introvert doesn’t mean that you are a “fraud” when it comes to fundraising, and you should not feel bad about sharing your feelings and experiences with colleagues and managers. For managers, it’s important to allow employees the space and opportunity for growth and also for self-care. We share some of these tips and tactics in our presentation.

Q: What have you found most exciting or satisfying about being an introvert in fundraising?

A: We really enjoy capitalizing on the strengths that introverts bring to the table when it comes to fundraising. For example, fundraisers are great listeners, which is so important when working with donors. We’ve also found that working for organizations and with causes near and dear to our hearts makes it feel like we aren’t working at all.

Q: What has been most challenging?

A: A lot of fundraising can be very challenging for introverts. For example, Matt is a major gift officer, and his performance is measured by the number of external meetings he has in a given time period. So many meetings can take its toll and make someone very tired, but it’s also very rewarding, especially when you can identify triggers and know the best ways to overcome them.

Q: What is a participant going to be most surprised about when listening to your session?

A: We think that participants will be very excited to learn that they aren’t alone. So often, we hear from people who think that they are the only introverts in fundraising. And imposter syndrome isn’t necessarily more prevalent in any particular group—men and women seem to share in this trait equally.

We think the other thing they will be surprised about is that imposter syndrome doesn’t have to affect your success as a fundraiser. With Matt as a major gift officer, Vinney as a consultant and Ann-Marie as an executive director, we’ve collectively raised tens of millions of dollars for our organizations. And if the 500+ people who have attended our sessions at ICON and the thousands who have joined our webinars have anything to say about it, it’s that you are not alone!

Vinney Arora is the principal consultant at The Arora Collective, where he and his team help organizations realize their growth opportunities by increasing efficiency, visibility, and supporter engagement. Ann-Marie Meacham, MPA, CFRE, is the executive director of the M-A Schools Foundation for the Future, as well as past president and current treasurer of the AFP Silicon Valley Chapter. Matthew Siegel, CFRE, has been the director of development for the College of Humanities and the Arts at San José State University since 2015, and will be president of the AFP Silicon Valley Chapter in 2020.

Be sure to attend their great presentation on “Introverts Unite: Combating Imposter Syndrome When You Really Want to Go Home,” and so many others, at the AFP LEAD, Oct. 3 -5 in Phoenix, Ariz. For more information and to register, click here.

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