Introverts in Fundraising: Surviving in an Extrovert Profession
August 15, 2017
By Paul Nazareth
"You’re a fundraiser, go schmooze."
Yuck, what a word, schmooze. Emphasis on the “ooze.”
Talk to our profession’s best and you’ll often find yourself in the argument: Is fundraising is a science or an art? Are major-gift-asks the territory of the alpha-hunter, VP for Advancement who charms the donor and ethically influences philanthropic intention around alignment with the latest campaign? OR are we talking about a prospect research data-driven process where donor behaviour will be matched with campaign needs and the right person asks at the right time using the right medium?
The answer is usually different from shop to shop.
It is also the answer to a frustrating assumption about the profession of fundraising; that this is an extrovert’s game because is it really all about schmoozing or strategic networking?
After the ground-breaking book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking,” author Susan Cain found herself at the forefront of what is now a revolution of the thinking-class. She has become the patron saint of the strategic-minded professional who dreads the noise and nausea of special events.
But this is not the full story.
As fundraisers, we are called to be introvert thinkers for strategy and research, then switch to extrovert mode to host golf tournaments, speak at staff gatherings and survive the whirlwind that is special events all in the same day. Who can do this? Enter best-selling author Daniel Pink and his book “To Sell is Human,” where he discusses the rise of the “Ambivert.”
And that’s where most of us live. Somewhere in the middle.
Extroverts get energy from people, crowds and chaos. For the classic extrovert, the challenge is to harness that energy like wind in a sail and build discipline to slow down: to think in the storm, listen, focus and try to engage more strategically to have more predictable repeatable outcomes.
Introverts are exhausted by special events, but they don’t hate them; it’s just an effort to attend. For an introvert, the key to survival is energy management, not trying to do it all and be it all. Know that you’ll need to build up reserves to make it through that exhausting gauntlet, but also you need a cool-down period or even breaks to make it through. Courage is required, but to the bold go powerful rewards.
For new fundraisers, the basic art of working the room (in person and now virtually) has been a decades- long teaching theme for Susan Roane, one of the most published authors in North America on the topic of networking. She has preached self-discovery and a personalized approach to building your plan of attack based on where you fall on the introvert/ambivert/extrovert spectrum. Millions have followed her advice and thrived as a result.
Don’t "fake it ‘til you make it." Discover your strength and build your donor engagement and networking skills from a strong foundation of who you really are. Remember, one of the greatest strengths of the AFP chapter community is the many opportunities to network face- to- face and not just build your skills, but watch, model and be mentored by leaders in our sector.
Join us August 24th for a national webinar on "Fundraising for Introverts" where we will talk about how to discover your personal strengths, how to take them to work and how to use them to advance your mission, fundraising skills and career.
Paul Nazareth is vice president for community engagement with CanadaHelps.org, Canada’s leading charity that brings together charities and donors as they give online. He speaks at AFP chapters across Canada; visits hundreds of charities and meets thousands of fundraisers each year. Paul teaches the planned giving course with the Georgian College postgraduate fundraising program, is an instructor with the Canadian Association of Gift Planners, is chair of the Humber College Postgraduate Fundraising Program Advisory Committee and is a passionate advocate of the power of networking in our work and lives. Find him on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulnazareth/ or @UinvitedU https://twitter.com/UinvitedU on Twitter.