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Donor Participation Project

Cultivating the Right Mindset: How to Conquer Anxiety and Optimism in Fundraising Meetings

Fundraising meetings with donors can bring up anxiety and unrealistic optimism in fundraisers. To have a productive conversation, you need to cultivate the right mindset. Start by understanding the mental shortcuts, or biases, you may rely on.

Anchoring bias

occurs when a donor mentions a constraint, like “money is tight this year,” causing you to lower your ask amount. Don’t drop your ask. Instead, acknowledge their concern, then reframe the conversation around their values and priorities to keep the original ask on the table.

Optimism bias

makes you overconfident in a meeting’s outcome. Prepare by considering at least three scenarios where a donor may not give at the level you expect. Have responses ready for objections and be willing to listen, not just pitch your case.

Pessimism bias

fuels anxiety about how a donor might respond. Run through the meeting in your mind, imagining questions a donor may ask. Role play the interaction with a colleague to gain confidence and fluency in your responses. Remember, some anxiety is normal and can motivate preparation. But don’t catastrophize.

The negativity bias

focuses your mind on past failures instead of your skills and accomplishments. Keep records of your wins and milestones to avoid underestimating yourself. Refer to them to stay optimistic through temporary setbacks.

Fundraising is a learned practice, not an inborn talent. With preparation and persistence, any fundraiser can excel. System 1 thinking taps into your intuition and emotions. System 2 thinking accesses reason and logic. Use both for the best outcomes. Allow intuition to guide relationship building with donors, then engage logical reasoning to articulate your case for support.

Staying focused on your mission and believing in your work can help motivate donors and yourself. Have confidence in your abilities through preparation and practice. The right mindset, balanced optimism, and managing anxieties and biases will lead to more natural, confident conversations with your supporters. Overall, mindfulness, active listening, and continuing to improve your craft will serve you and your organization well.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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