Fear: Why YOU Should Ask For and Receive a Major Gift This Summer…But Probably Won't

By Julia Riseman, Mentor, JCamp 180

This article is based on content created by Veritus Group and found on their Passionate Giving Blog, which I highly recommend.

Summer at camp: kids having fun being Jewish. There is nothing sweeter for a donor than seeing camp in action and witnessing how their giving makes a difference. Uplifted, energized, excited, and inspired. This summer every camp should ask for and receive a generous gift - and yet, most will not. Why? Fear and procrastination take over.

Right now you are all super busy and focused on providing Jewish kids with the best summer of their lives. Too busy, it seems to do the things that make you uncomfortable, seem scary, and don't seem urgent.  Fear is super common - and I'm here to tell you that you have nothing to fear.

Here are some warning signals that you may be struggling with fear to get in front of your donors and ask.

  • You tell yourself that first you need to create a plan. Strategic plan, fundraising plan, master facilities plan with prices, phases, and timetables.  Now you may think that your donors need a plan to give, but most often that isn't the case. Your biggest donors want to feel inspired and make a difference.  If you bring them to camp, and listen to them talk about what inspires them, I'm sure you can help them meet an unmet need at camp that they truly care about. Person-to-person talking and listening doesn't require a plan.
  • You tell yourself that you've missed the window of opportunity. You think to yourself, "Well, this donor only gives end-of-year, so no need to bother now." Or "They likely have summer plans already set- we'll try asking them up to camp next year instead." Or "We should wait until the camp is in a better position to handle donor visits." These are all excuses.
  • You tell yourself that the donor only wants to be communicated with by email or phone and doesn't want to be bothered with a long trip up to camp. In some cases this really could be true, but when I hear this I immediately start asking questions: "How do you know this? They have told you they absolutely don't want to visit camp?" Don't assume they don't want to be personally invited. Pick up the phone and call them yourself. 
  • "My donor only gives by mail, they don't want to be personally asked."  More likely, it's just easier for you to ask by mail than meeting in-person. The most important thing you can do is meet your donors in person face-to-face and personally ask for their generous support. The best place in the whole wide world to meet together would be up at camp.  Are you doing everything in your power to get your best supporters up to camp this summer?  
  • You assume that it is someone else's job to get donors up to camp and to ask for a donation. While it might be true that a Camp Director or Lay Leader may depend on the help of a Development Director or other staff member or volunteer to coordinate invitations and donor visits this summer, it is your responsibility to meet with Major Donors this summer. And to be trained and ready and willing to ask. 

Now, just because you are uncomfortable getting in front of your donors and asking doesn't mean it can't be overcome. We at JCamp 180 have worked with many camp professionals and volunteers who never asked a donor directly for a gift, yet through training and changing their attitude became great at it. Here are some things to keep in mind to help you to overcome your fear:

  • Donors want to give. They have money, they are good people, and they want to give it away to make a difference in the world.
  • You are actually doing your donor a favor by asking. There is a tremendous amount of research on this. People who give are healthier, wealthier and happier than people who don't give. And the more they give, the wealthier a donor becomes. So, you may just be doing your donor a favor. Ask…and ask often!
  • Donors are just like you. Many times we get it in our heads that people of great wealth are somehow different. Yes, they are… they have more money than you. But they are just people with dreams and fears and all the stuff you carry. Just be real with them and they will be real with you.
  • Practice meeting a donor. Do some role-playing with a colleague or your JCamp 180 Mentor so you know what to say and do when you are with a donor and asking for a gift. The more you practice this, the easier it will become. I like to visualize the meeting and my intended outcome before it happens. I find this very helpful in making it actually happen.
  • Take the leap - what's the worst that can happen? One of the great ways to overcome a fear is to confront it head-on and just do it. I've witnessed so many people overcome their fear by simply scheduling the meeting, making the ask, and getting a yes! You wouldn't believe how that one experience can help you move on from your fear. For example, one Camp Director I worked with was very nervous about his first set of asks. But when he realized that nobody said no to him, it completely changed his point of view. The process even made him feel good!

Don't let fear take over. Remember, donors want to be asked. It makes them feel good to give. Now, go out and be a "broker of love" and bring that donor some happiness.