Along with the Loch Ness Monster is the myth that one must be super extroverted to be a fundraiser. That someone must be rather outgoing, glad-handing, and schmoozy. Someone who would show up, as Andy Warhol once said, for the opening of an envelope. Someone akin to the worst stereotype of a car salesman.
Well, I can’t disprove the myth of the Loch Ness monster, but I am living proof that the myth of the extroverted fundraiser is just that. I’m a successful introverted fundraiser. So are many of the finest fundraisers I know. We don’t fit the stereotype… and we rock!
We rock because, in fact, fundraising isn’t about glad-handing and schmoozing. It’s about building warm, caring relationships with donors. It’s about learning what matters to them, what they want to accomplish through their philanthropy, and how they see the world. How do we do that? By asking lots of questions and listening closely.
This is where introverts thrive. In any conversation one is either talking or listening (we hope!). The more talking we do, the less listening we do. If we’re talking, we’re not learning about our donors. They’re learning about us, which has some value for sure, but the goal is to learn about our donors.
As introverts we naturally talk less and listen more. This allows our donors to do the talking. And when they do the talking, they feel engaged. It’s been proven that we remember the least of what we hear, more of what we ourselves say, and the most of how we feel. When our donors do most of the talking, they remember more of the conversation, feel they were engaged in the conversation, and walk away feeling more positive overall.
Related to this, introverts think to talk. We have longer neural pathways and we dig deeper into our knowledge base when developing the thoughts we share. This leads us to leave more time in the conversation for donors to interject, which is especially important to our fellow introverts.
I recently had a date, and the gentleman kept revealing sensitive, personal information about himself. He kept saying “oh my, I shouldn’t have shared that” and “I can’t believe I told you that… let’s talk about you.” And, before he knew it, he was sharing something else in response to an attentive question I had asked!
The art of conversation is not dead. It’s alive and well, and very much alive in introverts. We just want deeper conversations. We want one-on-one conversations where we can really dig in and get to know someone else. We want the conversations that, it turns out, are ideally suited to developing warm, caring relationships with our donors.
So, my fellow introverts, go out there and fundraise with confidence. Build those relationships, whether with individuals, foundation program officers, corporate giving staff, or even elected officials and government program staff. Keep up the great listening and you’ll rock!