How-To Give Your Inner Fundraiser More Currency

This year, a mentor died. A friend moved on. A social enterprise started sinking.

Each loss leaves its unique echo of disappointment and the haunting inner voices of recrimination: I wish I had spent more time with my mentor. I wish I had said this, or not said that, to my friend. I wish I had made different decisions at different times for my social venture.

Similarly, every time a potential funder says No, I feel just like I have lost a friend’s confidence — failed to say or do the right thing. Over and over, I replay the conversation in my head. What should I have said? What should I have done differently? Did I wear the right clothes? Joke too much, or not enough?

As far as money is concerned, I am a crossbreed social entrepreneur: I myself am an impact investor as well as a donor. On the other side of the desk, I raise both donations and impact investment dollars.

Good fundraising is less about persuasion and much more about aligning missions. It is about being true to yourself and your mission. And, it’s about listening to your funder’s motivations and mission.

The best fundraisers don’t fundraise. Instead, they teach people to take realistic – and unrealistic! – risks in the service of a better world. The blunt phrase “put your money where your mouth is” comes to mind.

Intrinsic to the “funding dance” is the validation which comes along with being tangibly supported by others. Financial support pays the bills, but it also says “I believe in your mission, I believe in your leadership, I believe your work is important.”

Effective immediately, I think funders should retire expressions like “we get many worthy applications…” or “your enterprise doesn’t fit our policy criteria…” Of course, each cliché is true in its own way and certainly intended to ease the sting of rejection, but they are 100% beside the point. Rejection is rejection. And, rejection begets self-doubt.

Most infuriating is the patronizing “don’t take it personally…” If you believe in your mission and if you are giving it your all, then it’s always personal. Every committed social entrepreneur takes organizational rejection personally! No sane funder should want it any other way.

– Jonathan C. Lewis, Host/Founder, Café Impact (original blog at Huffington Post)