fear and fundraising

I’ve been thinking recently about how fear and fundraising are intertwined. Or maybe I should say, “how fear and unsuccessful fundraising” are intertwined. I think about “fear” a lot. Fear’s a funny thing. Maybe because it’s on my mind, I see it everywhere.

I managed to finally see “The King’s Speech” last night. It’s an absolutely marvelous movie that accurately portrays the story of Prince Albert, Duke of York who becomes King George VI. I knew about larger historical elements of the drama of the time, but I didn’t know anything about King George VI.

He had a terrible stutter at the moment in history when radio was coming onto the world scene and changing everything about how leaders communicated.

Before radio (charmingly described as “the wireless” in the movie), a leader stood and waved or appeared in public or in a photo but the masses never heard their voices directly. Radio changed that. The central conflict is that Prince Albert becomes King of England at a time of crisis and must speak to the world via radio. But he is paralyzed by his stutter. The film revolves around the relationship between the stuttering Royal and his unconventional speech therapist. See the movie. You’ll be charmed, encouraged and inspired.

It’s not a plot spoiler to tell you that fear plays a huge role in the movie. Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of ridicule. There are painful, cringeworthy moments in the movie where we experience Prince Albert’s stutter. We see the fear. We can taste the choke. The embarrassment is tangible and real. It is excruciating to watch Prince Albert labor and fail. It’s heartbreaking to see him labor to string words together and fail miserably in front of his subjects and those he wants so desperately to please.

Conquering fear is one of the themes I took away from the movie. (See the movie and let me know if you agree.)

A few days ago I had the opportunity to spend time with one of my mentors. We talked projects and plans but we also talked about life and what’s happening inside us. While we weren’t talking about fear specifically, it was interesting how much coaching I wanted from him on how to deal with my fears. I can usually avoid fear showing on my face, but I can’t always keep it from directing my actions. I can keep my hands from shaking when I’m afraid but I can’t always keep fear from shaking my thoughts (or interrupting my sleep).

Obviously, fear can be a good thing (hot stoves and all of that), but often, maybe mostly, fear is a negative.

I made a list of fear-based behaviors that are bad. Bad for fundraising. Bad for living.

Here’s part of my list of “the bad stuff we do because we’re afraid:”

We procrastinate. We’re afraid we’ll fail so we put it off as long as possible…and then we often fail because we procrastinated.

We act timidly. We’re afraid to step up and act. We don’t speak our mind. We don’t say what we know to be true. We’re afraid of criticism. So we act a little. And “a little” isn’t enough or what the moment called for.

We avoid risk. The “what ifs” get to us. We think of all the negative things that can happen before we imagine all the wonderful possibilities.

We wimp out on our words. We’re afraid to detail all the ways our work is changing the world. We’re afraid to speak up about why donors should want to join in on the great work. We downplay impact.

So how do we keep fear from paralyzing us? How do we keep fear in its rightful place (hot stoves and high risk)?

One answer is back to the movie. King George VI is able to rally his country at a historic moment was through his relationship with his speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Lionel not only helped the King speak better but he also helped him face and overcome his fears.

So, I would suggest that the way to overcome the fears that are getting in your way is to find a coach, a partner, a trusted adviser who can speak truth to you. You will be less afraid if you have someone who will listen to your fears/concerns and who you trust enough to listen to their opinion. It won’t be enough for them to be a good listener, you have to listen as well. I decided for this post to avoid the seemingly easy spiritual answers about fear because for many of us knowing that we shouldn’t be afraid isn’t quite the same as not being afraid.

So what do you think? Did you see the movie? Is fear the star as much as I think it is? How do you overcome the fears that get in the way of your work? I love hearing what you think.


Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: Wikimedia)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.