The Fear of Asking for Money is Back!

COVID-19 and the economic devastation it has wrought has revived the terrifying fear that many nonprofits have about asking for money.

Even in the best of times, many people in the nonprofit world are uncomfortable about asking their donors for financial support.

A couple of years ago, I created this animated explainer video about the Fear of Asking for Money.

I have spent most of my adult life working in industries that attract people who are driven by money -- 6 years in the NFL, 20 years in Television Broadcasting and 6 years in corporate sales.

People in those professions are extremely money motivated.

My observation is that people who are attracted to careers in the nonprofit sector are the complete opposite.

They are NOT driven by money. They've chosen to work for a nonprofit because they want to make a difference.

There is some population for which they want to:

  • Improve the quality of life
  • Improve access
  • Reduce inequity
  • Reduce pain
  • Heal the sick
  • Help the grieving

And they enthusiastically do this physically and emotionally taxing work for a fraction of compensation they could earn if they worked in the for-profit sector. 

So when it comes to ASKING for money, as a group, nonprofits are nervous. They know that they MUST ask, but it's their least favorite part of the job.

Look at what's happening right now.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore all of the standard reasons to NOT ask for support:

  • Now is not a good time to ask. We should just be focusing on getting through this crisis.
  • Now is not a good time to bother our donors with a request for support, because they're dealing with their own financial struggles. 
  • Now is not a good time to ask for support -- look at what's happening with the stock market.
  • Now is not a good time to ask, because we need to show more empathy to our donors. We need to show them that we understand how THEY feel. They probably don't feel like being asked for money right now.

These are all reasons to NOT ask for support, and some or all of them may be 100% true.

But I also think these rationales are irrelevant. They're simply the self-talk that we give ourselves to sooth our fear of asking for money. 

Your nonprofit has a vital mission and the vulnerable people or animals that you serve probably need your support now more than ever. You owe it to them to not let your fear of asking for money stop you from reaching out to your donors.

And you owe it to your donors to make the request. The people who support you, care about your mission. They care about the population that you serve.

Many of your donors are tucked away in their homes with their vital needs met, but they worry about people who are less fortunate.

They want to give. They want to offer support. 

But their favorite nonprofits aren't asking for help right now.

If their favorite nonprofits needed help, surely they would ask, right? So the silence from the nonprofit world must mean that they have everything they need. It must mean that they have sufficient reserves and they're going to make it through this okay.

If they needed help from me, they would ask me, wouldn't they?

We can help you make the ask.

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