Fundraising as an Introvert

My husband and I couldn’t wait for our Colorado honeymoon! We biked along a sunny canyon, bathed in hot springs and hiked a variety of mountain-peaks. We were having a blast; but on the last day, my introverted husband was hungry for some alone time—so we decided to hike separately. Just as we were about to go our separate ways I slipped and sprained my ankle badly. My husband had to carry me down the mountain, take me to the ER, pack all our bags and push me in a wheelchair through the entire airport.

Once we got home, he told me he needed another hiking trip—this time for sure alone! As an introvert, he was both overwhelmed by the newfound constancy of living with another person as well as the unexpected adventure of my injury. So, he was off, without me!

What defines an introvert? Some people assume that an introvert is shy and quiet while an extrovert is the life of the party, but that’s inaccurate. The most meaningful indicators lie in what gives us energy. In general, an introvert is recharged by being alone, even if they enjoy large groups of people. Attending to multiple sources of stimuli tends to drain an introvert so that they withdraw to re-energize. While an extrovert may have a large breadth of relationships, an introvert probably prefers to go deep with a few people. Studies show that 30 to 50 percent of the population are introverts.1

If you identify as an introvert, you are in good company! How does that affect you as a fundraiser, when you need to interact with (potentially) hundreds of people to raise your budget? As a fundraising coach, here’s what I suggest.

1. Keep the focus on the mission

Introverts may get relationally tapped out when they feel like they have to invest deeply in many people and discouraged when people turn them down. But donor relationships aren’t the same as ordinary friendships since the primary focus of the relationship is the mission of your organization. As you highlight the important work of your non-profit, you bring the spotlight to an organizational calling instead of yourself. Then the donor’s response is more a reflection of their values rather than your friendship.

2. Order your donors by priority

Best practices in development suggest prioritizing your prospects based on a combination of factors. In my organization, we focus on the prospect’s connection with the fundraiser, their passion for our type of mission, their financial capacity and their overall generosity. The more factors that fit a prospective donor, the higher we prioritize them. The donor pyramid suggests that 80 percent of your funds should come from 20 percent of your donors. As an introvert, save your best energy for that top 20 percent and invest deeply as you find out who they are.

3. Contact many but go deep with a few

In our fundraising, we’ve found that we need to contact 200-300 people to find the 50-70 folks who will fund each campus mission. An introvert can feel overwhelmed if they expect every relationship to meet their standards for high-quality, deep relationships. Know that most donors don’t expect the fundraiser to become a close friend. We tell staff to engage the donor for a quality appointment to present the ministry and invite partnership, then to follow up with regular patterns of thanking and reporting.

4. Pace yourself

After contacting one hundred prospects in six days, my introverted coachee schedules an entire day of alone time. Think through what you need to pace yourself. Perhaps you schedule more frequent breaks after each series of phone calls. Maybe you know that it doesn’t work for you to schedule appointments back to back. Maybe you plan smaller chunks of calls more frequently to sustain yourself.

5. Communicate in a donor-centric way

Although it may feel uncomfortable, scan your donor to understand who they are and communicate in their preferred style. If you’re meeting with an extrovert, you’ll need to raise the energy level; if you are meeting with a fellow introvert, you can relax into your usual mode. Watch how they prefer to communicate—whether by phone, text, email or Messenger—and use that style. Ideally, you can use electronic communication to your advantage to reach out to more people, as it fits their preferences, without feeling as emotionally drained.

6. Invest in yourself

Think through what you need to replenish yourself as a fundraiser and build that into your schedule. Communicate with your supervisor or fundraising coach about what will help you succeed. Identify what feels energizing and what feels exhausting in fundraising so that they can strategize to help you maximize your capacity. If you are an introvert and are taking risks frequently, be particularly aware of the importance of nourishing yourself.

7. Know that you are a gift

As an introvert, you are probably a good listener, because you aren’t processing externally like the extroverts! Many introverts are creative and wise, thinking deeply about the world. You may see things that others don’t because you take the time to observe and process internally. Often, introverts bring a sense of calm when they have taken the time to center themselves. Know that you are a gift to your donors as you meet with them and be open to what you will bring to them, not just what they will give to your cause.