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Mayes Wilson & Associates

Who makes a better fundraiser: an introvert or an extrovert?

Julie Whelan Capell |

I’ve been a fundraiser for a loooooong time–more than 30 years. In that time, I have heard many variations on statements like these:

  • “Fundraisers are like used car sales people, they just talk at you until they wear you down” (that was my boss, the CEO of a large nonprofit. I didn’t stick around there very long!)
  • “I could never do your job, I hate meeting new people”
  • “I don’t know how you can beg people for money” (something my mom said to me more than once)

Yes, fundraisers and the job of fundraising are not universally understood, and we are generally stereotyped as extroverts and “people” people.

I do like my job and I enjoy talking to people. I am very comfortable at parties and networking. I can usually strike up a conversation with just about anyone on any topic. I’m sure my friends would classify me as an extrovert, so I guess I fit the stereotype.

But the truth is, extroverts do not necessarily make the best fundraisers. Why is that? Because the most important skill in fundraising is LISTENING.

Why is LISTENING a fundraising superpower?

The heart of what you are trying to do when you are raising money is connecting the donor’s values to the work of your organization. Memorizing your organization’s elevator speech and blurting it out every chance you get isn’t getting you any closer to understanding your donors and potential supporters. Bombarding people with the wish list of things your organization needs, or talking nonstop about outcome measures and metrics won’t build a relationship.

LISTENING is called for because only by listening to and connecting with people can you begin to understand WHY they might want to donate. Everyone has their own personal reasons for being interested in your organization, and those reasons are usually connected to their values.

A good fundraiser needs to be able to ask questions and then stop talking and listen to what the other person says. You need to listen deeply in order to get to the core values underlying what the person is saying. Only then can you begin to talk to them about ways your mission aligns with their values.

Rather than memorizing the organizational mission statement or a list of accomplishments, try thinking of 4 or 5 open-ended questions you can ask people when you meet them at special events or meetings or after religious services. Open-ended questions generate discussion. They often begin with “what” or “how” or “tell me about.”

Click here to download a list of open-ended questions you can use to strengthen your listening superpower.

What questions do you like to use to get a conversation started?

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