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Shift Your Fundraising from Scarcity to Possibility: Change Your Words For a Better Outcome

By November 25, 2015January 20th, 2017Communication, Nonprofits, Storytelling

People often refer to me as a fundraising coach. And I am.

My work and mission are to help people in the social sector raise more money.

The truth is most often I find my work focused on helping people change their language and awareness from scarcity to possibility. I find it’s too big a leap to go from scarcity language to abundance language right away. So I focus on possibility language first.

When I’m invited to work with staff or board members I ask lots of questions that shine a spotlight on day-to-day communications. Pretty quickly people begin to notice their word choices make a huge difference in their fundraising, in raising awareness, in their donor retention, and even in their board engagement.

The simple question I ask most often when I’ve been brought in to help an organization raise more money is: How will you reframe your comment or question to come from possibility rather than scarcity?

The question alone raises eyebrows and sometimes causes people to get a little defensive. Who wants to have it pointed out that their language choices come from a lens of scarcity?

To make this easy to understand I focus on the word choices I’ve heard throughout our time together.

Here are some phrases most often repeated in new client meetings:
Our goal is too big or There is NO way we can reach our goal.
I don’t have enough time to get it all done.
Our board doesn’t do anything we ask of them.

I believe and have tons of evidence that the words we choose are seeds to the outcome. When we frame actions and intentions with scarcity language we stay stuck. We feel bad. And we rarely see a way to move out of being stuck.

When we frame actions and intentions with positive statements rather than scarcity language, things DO change. Read the old and new phrases I’ve listed below and see what I mean.

Our goal is too big or There is NO way we can reach our goal this year.
What will it take for us to reach our goal? OR What goal can we be certain we CAN reach?

I don’t have enough time to get it all done.
In the time I have today, what CAN or MUST I accomplish?

Our board doesn’t do anything we ask of them.
We have some exceptional board members. Here’s why ______.

Let’s take this one step further.

When you remove qualifiers in your language like: “trying to” or “planning to” what’s left is language about your commitment.

By removing scarcity language and qualifiers your words have more power. Your phrasing is believable, even to yourself.

Often there is a palpable feeling of a shift from scarcity to possibility.

My coaching advice for you:
Take a moment and make a list of scarcity language you’ve said already today. Then “reframe it” to possibility language.

This is an excellent exercise to do in a group. The more people on your team working to shift awareness about language choices, the more powerfully and quickly you WILL see a difference in the outcome.

If you get stuck, list your language examples here in the comments and I’ll help you reframe your language.

Check out these links to more information about how and why word choices matter:
The Power of Words – YouTube video
Two Powerful Words
My 3 Words for 2015
Why Word Choice Matters

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