Do you have fundraising grit?

Have you ever met someone who seemed to never quit? They walk around with boundless, contagious energy and nerves of steel. The kind of person who dreamed big and didn’t give up?

I know someone like that. Her name is Sonia, and she raises money for a food bank in her city. Here’s a story she told me about how she faced a situation we all do from time to time in fundraising.

There she was, right before the finish line.

She had spent months cultivating this donor. Sonia had talked about everything she felt she needed to know about him: his wife and children, his children’s ages and where they went to school. Together, they had pored over childhood memories and family vacation photos.

“We had spent a great deal of time building a relationship. We had great conversations about his favorite books, sports teams, and how the food bank had helped his own mother through some hard times.”

She’d also invested time talking about a special project that he had expressed serious interest in. He visited the site and met the beneficiaries. He’d experienced nearly every aspect of the organization and the project Sonia wanted him to support.

It had all come down to this moment.

Sonia delivered an immaculate proposal. He was nodding. His brow is furrowed as he peered thoughtfully at the pages. She had solicited him for a substantial gift. The silence hung between the two of them.

After a moment, he responded, “thank you for the opportunity, but right now isn’t a good time. My oldest is going to college soon, and my parents aren’t in good health. I can’t commit to this gift right now.”


The air was sucked out of the room. What would Sonia do now?

This scenario isn’t all that uncommon for fundraisers, and it’s how you respond that makes all the difference.

You see, donors say “no” – all the time, for all kinds of reasons (or sometimes, no reason!). What sets truly great fundraisers apart is their ability to bounce back from rejection and persevere.

Grit is the quality of resilience.

Having grit doesn’t mean that you don’t feel disappointment. It means to that despite that feeling of disappointment, you get right back up and try again. Maybe you work on a different strategy, or maybe you try something new… but you keep moving forward.

Want to grow your grittiness?

Do these four things:

  • Get clear about your passion. Understand why you care about raising money for your cause and keep that reason close. Write it on a sticky note. Put it on your mirror or your computer. Revisit it often. Be consistent about focusing on that passion – not the numbers or the goal or the dollars.

  • Strengthen your perseverance. Resilience is a muscle. You can work it until it gets stronger. When you fall, get back up. When you get turned down, call the next person on your list.

  • Find a person. Humans are beings who crave community and connection, right? Fundraisers are no different. Find a mentor or a peer who can help you talk through disappointments, offer you support, and encourage you to try again.

  • Give yourself peace talks. The voice inside your own head can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Be careful of the language and the messages that you give yourself through your own self-talk. Speak peace, love, confidence, and grace to yourself.

Stuck on getting started with your “why”?


So what did Sonia do?

First, she focused on why she started fundraising for the food bank in the first place. She remembered that the work she was doing helped many families – she even thought about a specific few families she knew well.

“I can still see one mother’s face, with tears streaming down her eyes, as she picked up food and household needs for her two sons. That woman and those two boys are why I need to keep going. I can’t give up.”

She remembered to be grateful for the time her prospective donor had spent deepening his interest in the food bank. She had a feeling that he would make a gift eventually.

Then, she pulled together some positive thoughts and began preparing for her next donor conversation. That’s what grit is all about; using your passion and perseverance to do challenging things and stick with them.

When you have grit – and  Sonia does – success is always right around the corner!