So you are one of those wonderful dreamers who is working toward making their vision a reality by pouring all your energy into a nonprofit, but you think you have one problem: you’re a little quiet, a little introverted.
And this fact is easy enough to ignore in all of the excitement of dreaming and planning and grant-writing until it comes time to face potential donors for your cause. For introverts working in nonprofits, fundraising can seem a daunting task. However, it is my hope that after reading these tips, you will not only feel more empowered to work through your introversion to successfully build strong relationships with your constituents, but to embrace your unique strengths and yield great success for your organization.
1. Understand your strengths and weaknesses.
While many introverts may feel comfortable working from behind a desk writing grants and articles to inspire the generosity of their donors, fewer enjoy the prospect of public speaking and meeting face-to-face with their constituents. It is important to recognize that although you will sometimes need to make appearances if you are the face of your organization, you can hire people to help balance your weaknesses.
For example, you could employ peer-to-peer fundraising, a grassroots online fundraising strategy that turns your supporters into fundraisers, to do some of your necessary socializing for you, helping you conserve your “peopling” energy.
On the other hand, as an introvert you likely have a deep well of feeling and knowledge to draw from and the special attentiveness of a practiced listener. This is an extraordinary gift that, when shared with your potential donors, will promote the growth of strong relationships with your constituents when you do meet face-to-face.
Fundraising expert Brian Saber created this short quiz to help people determine their “asking style” that you may find helpful not only for work, but for understanding your style of being a little better.
2. Capitalize on your strengths.
Once you have identified your strengths, use them to your advantage. As a likely deeply contemplative person, you probably have a talent for expressing yourself through writing. Regularly publishing articles and stories on your nonprofit’s blog and sharing links on Facebook with your friends is an excellent way to expand your reach.
And as mentioned in the first tip, you probably have strong one-on-one people skills that can be utilized. If so, focus on building deep relationships with your donors when you choose to meet with them. If you suffer from a little social anxiety as I sometimes do, try to see them as your team members instead of as “on the other side,” and hopefully you will feel more at ease.
As Ryan Finkelstein points out in An Introduction to Constituent Relationship Management, it is easier to maintain old relationships with donors than to forge new ones. This is where the introvert proves invaluable, as they tend to be more attentive and deeply personable in a way that promotes the development of strong relationships.
3. Allow yourself to recharge.
Creating healthy boundaries for yourself in your work and relationships is essential to your success; think of it as resource management. I’m fine with one-on-one conversations but when it comes to public speaking, this tip has been one of the most important to internalize for success in all areas of my life. We live in a society that really glorifies extroversion, despite introverts making up roughly half of the population by some estimates. Introverts tend not to possess the same social filters or emotional boundaries that extroverts use when interacting with people, and this causes us to drain faster.
When you must spend a lot of your social energy to accomplish a fundraising task, allow yourself to schedule downtime for yourself following the donor event. You will be happier and more efficient in the long run if you do, ready to take on the world.
So if you’re an introvert working for an NPO, chances are, you are a visionary actively working toward making our world a better place. Your style is quieter than others’, but as Susan Cain points out in her Ted Talk titled The Power of Introverts,
“There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
You also need more time to yourself to dream than extroverts do, and that’s very excellent. We need you to keep dreaming in your quiet places and bringing those ideas back to the community, so thank you for being perfectly introverted you.
The world is better for it.