Nonprofit Fundraising: how our money mindset affects our ability to raise money...or not

Watch the video on week one of money mindset here

You may be an awesome fundraiser, but maybe you're surrounded by people who aren’t (your board, your staff, your committees) and you wish they could be more effective. If you want to raise more money and you don't know quite how to connect with it, then read on.

Money Mindset

When we’re fundraising, the way our mindset shows up is like we have already been rejected. We're terrified to call someone and ask. We're afraid to ask for what we want. We're afraid of saying no. We think they're going to give to someone else. We can't imagine why they would want to give to our organization. All of these negative thoughts come flooding in—that’s our money mindset.

There are two reasons for this:

1. Your Brain’s Evolution. As a survival mechanism for many years, our brains are hardwired to see the negative very well. We tend to scan and see the fear, instead of the opportunity. By default, our mentality is already, “Oh my God, this is all going to go to crap and I'm just going to hold on for the ride.”

2. Your Brain’s Programming. If our brain was a machine, our prefrontal cortex (front upper brain) is like the R.A. It does all the research and it's always learning new information. Our subconscious brain (lower brain) is like the worker bee in the basement. It doesn't think; it just does.

95 percent of our functioning is the subconscious brain. It’s why we can drive to work every day without relearning the route. It’s why we have patterns and habits. And it’s also why we have repetitive thoughts. Our thoughts get programmed into our subconscious, and when our conscious mind tries to work against them, the subconscious is like, “Nope, this is how we function, stop it.” Because of this, it looks like, despite our best intentions, sometimes it's really hard to change habits and behaviors.

I’ve talked about my overspending and how it’s a reaction to my mother's austerity and frugality. If my overspending is a reaction to that, then I'm hardwired to do that. I would say, “I'm not going to do this again, I swear, this is gonna be different this time.” But I would make the same mistake and it would be the same every single time. What comes next is a bunch of shame and guilt, like, “Oh my God, I'm a morally incompetent person because I can't make the change I want to seek.”

No, it's just your subconscious programming that's winning out over your conscious brain. It's probably going to win every time, unless you change the programming of your subconscious brain. If our brain is wired for scarcity, to fear money, for what could go wrong or what could happen, then we're going to approach a fundraising situation that way. And when we give out that vibration and we put that energy out there, that's what we're going to get back.

Money Story

First, we need to understand what the programming is. That’s your money story.

Think about your life as a movie. What did your parents teach you about money? When you think about money, what comes up for you? For example, “There's never enough,” “Everyone has more,” “I need to hold on to it,” and/or “I want to ignore it.”

If you're a fundraiser and you're struggling with fear, write down all the negative thoughts that you can think of around asking someone for money. If you're really good at asking for money, but you're with people who aren't, then you can give me the reasons that they struggle with money. Because I'm sure they're telling you, “I don't want to make people feel guilty,” “I don't want to ask out of obligation,” “No one's interested in my kind of charity right now,” and/or “No one's giving to me.”

All these things that are going through your head, just write them down without thought and without judgment. Because once we know what our programming is, we can then replace the negative programming with positive ones. We can change our mindset so we can actually reprogram our subconscious. Once we understand on a conscious level that it's our subconscious doing the talking, then we can really find ways to program it to work for us, instead of against us.

And that's what we really want. Because when we show up full of hope and opportunity, energy and excitement, that's going to come across. When we show up full of doubt—even if we think we're not presenting it; even if we think that we're being very open and excited—that energy is going to come through. We may be sabotaging our efforts without even knowing it.

The good news about all this is that if you've been struggling to change a habit in your life and you've been feeling down about it, it's not because of any weakness in you. It's just because you need to understand how the brain works. And once you know that, you can understand how to reprogram it.

Further Reading Recommendation

If you're interested in money mindset—and if you're interested in this idea of understanding your money story and changing your wealth programming—then I would recommend a book called Tapping into Wealth by Margaret Lynch.

It's called the Emotional Freedom Technique. It's a technique that you use to process your feelings. It may feel a little weird, but just try it for yourself. If it works for you, great. If not, it was a cool experiment and you're going to learn a ton, anyway. And it's just a wonderful exploration into why you are the way you are. (I would recommend the audiobook; it’s really fascinating.)

Week One Homework

Your homework for this week is to think about your money story and what you've learned about money from your parents. Think about all the thoughts and fears that come up when you or those around you are about to ask for money.

Next week, we will discuss how to change that. And then in week three, we will talk about how to gently and lovingly support those around you to help change their mindset, without making them feel bad or make them feel like they're a moral failure.

Until next time, be courageous.