The question I used to hate

For a long time, when interviewing for jobs that I was supposed to want, I prayed that I wouldn’t be asked, “Why do you want to work here?” Because often I didn’t have a clue why I wanted the job.  It often wasn’t my passion.

Now I find myself answering this question nearly every day – not because I’m on the job market (I’m not), but because this is the (often unspoken) question in any fundraising meeting.

“Tell me a little more about yourself,” says the potentially interested donor. Translation: “Tell me why you’ve decided to devote your life to this cause. Tell my why you’re passionate about it, why you believe in the mission, and why you’ve decided to walk this path when so many others with your capabilities are doing something completely different?”

Put another way, “tell me about the commitment YOU’VE made, before we talk about the commitment I might make.”

Every potential donor should ask this question, and every time you or anyone in your organization talks to a potential donor, you need to find a way to tell this story (briefly).

By skipping this, you miss your greatest chance at authentic, personal connection. You miss the chance to talk about your own passion in a personal and genuine way.

Too often, people think their job in a fundraising meeting is to do a dog and pony show about why the organization they work for is so great.  Find the comfort to talk about yourself first, with humility, to tell your own story.

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One Response to The question I used to hate

  1. V says:

    I agree! I am a fundraiser for an international nonprofit and I think it’s important to (a) donate to the nonprofit myself and (b) tell my friends and donors that and why I donate to my nonprofit. At the last nonprofit I fundraised for, I wasn’t a donor because I didn’t believe in the mission as much – and I think that came through in my joy for the job, although I was still successful as a fundraiser.

    I always tell wannabe fundraisers that the most important thing is to work for an organization that you would eagerly give money to yourself – if you are working for WWF and you don’t care a whit about animals, you may be successful, but you are not going to love working there.

    I was just talking about this issue with a colleague on Thursday, regarding a year end appeal letter I was finalizing. I am planning on including our holiday gift catalog (by the way, our holiday gifts, like a goat or a health worker kit, are not “representative”) with the year end appeal letter and was mulling over whether to include the line, “I am getting my mom a sheep!” I wasn’t sure if that line was too much “about me” – but my colleague said it’s good to let the donors know who you are and that you believe in the organization too.

    I am intrigued by your “with humility” – would love if you could expand on that. Great blog!

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