Advancing Philanthropy

Introspective Practices: Your Money Mindset Matters

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If fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving, then fundraising is also learning the joy of receiving.

I first started my nonprofit career raising blood before moving on to raising money. Asking people to donate blood is a lot less emotionally charged than asking people to donate money. As a fundraiser, I felt this. Through working with volunteers and training staff for blood drives and peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, people’s expressed fears and hesitations have been much stronger when asking for money as opposed to asking for blood.

It has been an absolute joy working with volunteers to raise funds for the causes that they are so incredibly passionate about and are committed to helping. It’s also been fascinating to see people’s responses to asking others to donate to things when they are both dedicated to the cause. Even though it is an honor to be asked, so many fundraisers still feel uncomfortable with the most fundamental and basic element of fundraising: asking for the gift. These uncomfortable feelings are what interests me most, this exploration of “Why.” Not the why people give, but why are people afraid to ask—especially fundraisers?

As fundraisers, we talk about money quite a bit—how to get it, why we need it, what it can do. At its bare essence, at least. But how often do we openly explore what money means to us, personally, as individuals? We know that our profession has a high burnout and turnover rate. This can be because of demanding pressures or unhealthy work structures at times, but I wonder if part of this has to do with our personal relationship and feelings about money.

Money is a highly emotionally charged topic. We all need it. We use it daily. It is a foundational element of every civilized society. And it takes on a myriad of meanings, and not all positive.

Many nonprofits have a culture with a scarcity mindset, fueled by people whose life choices are made from this frame of mind. A scarcity mindset is when you are so obsessed with a lack of something that you can’t seem to focus on anything else, no matter how hard you try.

Scarcity mindsets are often rooted in fear, pain or trauma. Trauma can be a scary word, but it’s a natural part of the human experience. It’s what we do with our trauma after the fact that can make all the difference. Most people have varying degrees of trauma rooted in fear from early childhood. These roots were learned and can be more powerful when we are unaware of them. As fundraisers, when we learn to unmask our subconscious beliefs about money and heal the negative associations we’ve unconsciously learned, we will be able to raise more for the causes we believe in, find more joy in our work and discover more abundance in our personal lives.

There are many possible negative beliefs around money and how it manifests in our day-to-day lives. Let’s explore some of the most common ones—starting with: boundaries.

Setting Boundaries

Boundaries show where one thing ends and another begins, and they are essential in relationships. In short, boundaries help you define what you are comfortable with and how you would like to be treated by others. Setting healthy boundaries is a skill many people have to learn as an adult. Understanding one’s own boundaries, and learning to set healthy ones, are critical for the fundraiser if they are to find true, authentic joy in the work. Boundaries around money are often replicated based on what we learned as children.

For example, if you struggle to have healthy boundaries around money in your personal life, then asking others for money for your organization may trigger a deep feeling of anxiety. If you find it hard to say “no’’ when certain people ask for your money, then it may be hard to trust that your donors feel that they have full agency to say “no,” when you ask them to donate theirs.

The Power of “No”

“No” is a magical and magnetic word. It’s a word that can be hard to learn to love, but the more you are able to say “no” when you want to in your own life, the more empowered you will feel to ask others to invest in your mission because “no” will become less scary to you. The more you become acquainted with and familiar with saying “no” in your own life, the more others will say “yes” to the requests you present to them for consideration.

Fear of Rejection

Curious Introspection for the FundraiserFor those with a fear of rejection, the word “no” may feel a little less magical. Rejection can be laced with value judgments, causing one to feel like a simple “no” means, “You are not good enough,” “I do not accept who you are,” or other painful associations. While these are not true since rejection to an ask can be meaningless, the fundraiser may feel the weight of asking people to give—and the fear of rejection that comes with it—directly linked to how they see themselves and their personal value.

Affirmations for the FundraiserWhat if instead of focusing on the yesses or no’s that one receives to fundraising asks, you instead celebrate the process?

When I had my first major gifts position with the Girl Scouts, our philanthropy team made it a habit to focus not on the “yeses” to requests received but on the number of times we asked people to give. We celebrated the ask. We celebrated the process. Our team, who I grew to love dearly, had a little trail sign where we moved our little hiker along the path. The more asks we made, the further she went on her journey. We even popped a few bottles of sparkling cider to celebrate her ask milestones. While focusing on and celebrating the steps forward, rejection became meaningless, and the process of doing the work became our collective superpower.

Finding Fulfillment

Philanthropy is a vehicle to soul fulfillment. Stop for a minute to think about your donors. Just like you, your donors want to enact positive change, yet they can’t necessarily do it on their own. They may not be able to take girls on outdoor adventures where they gain confidence. They may not be able to end homelessness, provide shelter to a domestic violence survivor or help children fleeing a war zone. But through you, they can. This is why our mindset, as fundraisers, is so important. Philanthropy goes way beyond the financial transaction of the donation and the causes that it supports. Philanthropy is humanizing and healing for the donor and the fundraiser alike.

Philanthropic Mindset

To find joy in fundraising—to find joy in life—one must embrace a philanthropic mindset, one of abundance. We need to recognize our feelings of shame surrounding money—feelings associated with selfishness, inadequacy or lack of belonging. As fundraisers, we need to give ourselves permission to heal our relationship with money, to let go of any negative associations, and to ask for more for our missions and ourselves.

Heal Your Relationship With Money

There are a few simple tools you can use to heal your relationship with money. Each of these will help you find greater joy in life, achieve greater excellence in fundraising, and embrace a philanthropic mindset.

Affirmations. Simply put, a thought you think over and over again becomes a belief. Your beliefs are hard-wired in your brain. Therefore, you’ve got to choose good, loving thoughts. Using affirmations can help remind you to think new thoughts. After you’ve read your affirmations for a while, day after day, you begin to believe them. And when you believe they are true, these new thoughts become hard-wired in your brain.

Curiosity over judgment. Entertain your own money narrative and take note of where judgment, fear and pain pop up for you. In order to heal from any negative associations you have surrounding money, you must become aware of them and love yourself through them. Any form of judgment will present a block to healing. Exploring your relationship with money can take a lot of bravery, but it’s a journey worth taking. Curiosity doesn’t assume it knows the answer; it doesn’t evaluate if something is good or bad; it doesn’t have an opinion. It simply pays attention and listens.

Let your curiosity be greater than your fear. This judgment-free exploration is where transformation happens. By simply observing yourself without judgment and embracing the idea that your thoughts and feelings are neither good nor bad, you will begin to heal your relationship with money.

When you change how you feel about money, you will bring more joy and abundance into your life and the lives of others.

Alison Clare Baldree, CFREAlison Clare Baldree, CFRE, received her bachelor’s degree in philosophy, theology and nonprofit leadership from Rockhurst University. Baldree serves on the board for AFP Mid-Michigan Chapter and as the director of fund development for Shelterhouse in Midland, Michigan. In 2020, she launched Philanthropy Babe, an organization that celebrates, empowers, supports and connects philanthropically-minded and mission-driven women. Philanthropy Babe exists to help people stress less while raising more for the causes they believe in. Find out more about her workshops at www.philanthropybabe.com.

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19 Sep 2022 President's Perspective Blog
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