There are many things that make us good fundraisers; as a group we tend to be confident, brave, intelligent and passionate about our causes. I wonder though, how many of us have considered whether we bring their authentic self to work and if this is something that makes us successful fundraisers?
Because when I think about what makes me a good fundraiser one of the stand out attributes is the ‘warts and all’ way in which I present myself. I believe that to be good fundraisers we must be ourselves and bring authenticity to every aspect of our jobs.
Being a fundraiser is all about building strong personal relationships with our donors. Charities on the whole should develop an authentic voice on the issues they are trying to solve if they want to be listened to. It’s exactly the same for fundraisers, especially those of us who have to get face to face with potential donors to encourage them to give.
Staying true to who we are is crucial to building honest relationships and creating the rapport which will encourage a supporter to give a major gift for the first time, increase an existing donation or encourage a senior manager to choose your charity as their company’s charity of the year. Of course, this isn’t always easy as we try to navigate the line between being authentic and staying professional, all the while keeping the charities brand and tone in mind.
Obviously we do need to maintain a level of professionalism. When I bring my authentic self to work, I am not bringing the self that swears like a trooper when I'm around friends, or the self that tripped over a weight ball in a gym class and fell flat on her bum (happened), but the authentic self that can use confident conversational skills and laughs at her own clumsiness. You can be professional and still share much of who you are with the person sitting across the table with you – it’s all a matter of balance and reading cues. I attended a business brunch at the Women’s Equality Party conference, chaired by Sandi Toksvig and the CEO of Virgin Money, armed with a pink fluffy notebook emblazoned with a unicorn face. This did nothing to undermine my ability to be part of that roundtable or contribute to the conversation and provided a fun talking point with my fellow attendees. I love a colourful notebook, bright lipstick and statement jewellery, because they all bring something of my personality to my day job. They enhance, not hinder my ability to be successful, because I don't have to use energy hiding who I am.
Being your authentic self, while maintaining the specified tone and message of your organisation is hard and as Alan Clayton says, no one ever wins a partnership on brand palette! Trying to remember the exact agreed wording of your organisation is exhausting, but if you sit in front of a potential donor and talk about why you love the organisation and the brilliant work they do, in your own words, you will set that persons heart alight much more than if you’re reciting something from the website. This isn’t about making things up, it’s about presenting the facts and the why of your organisation in a way that sounds like you, that brings your authenticity to the table.
And don’t be embarrassed to tell personal stories. I frequently tell stakeholders about my escapades as an archaeologist, banter with them about football and talk about the Instagram account I set up for my cat! If the situation is right to share personal details then you absolutely should. Fundraising is all about storytelling and that includes your story too! In the same way that your best friendships would not be as successful if you never shared any part of who you really are, your relationship building with donors will never be truly successful if you're trying to cover up vital parts of your personality.
So tomorrow and from now on, bring your authentic self to work. Don’t shy away from showing your true, wonderful personality and watch the effect it has on your relationships.