Are you an introverted fundraiser struggling to fit into an extroverted world? Don’t worry because Emma Lewzey has your back!
Introverts have an observant nature, which allows them to be excellent listeners who have the ability to thrive in the right environment. These skills allow introverts to connect deeply with donors to undercover their passions, goals and interests which is essential for effective fundraising.
As a major gift expert, Emma Lewzey has helped organizations like yours build and grow successful, sustainable fundraising programs. She joins the show to share why introverts make the best fundraisers, and how to avoid burnout in extroverted environments.
Top 3 Takeaways
- Introverts are excellent active listeners. Good fundraisers need to be able to not only take in what their donors are saying but pick up on subtle cues and ask more meaningful questions. This not only makes your donor feel more validated and comfortable with you but can also lead to larger gifts!
- Introverts and extroverts need to work together to get the job done. Often times we value the outgoing extrovert in fundraising, but introverts also bring a lot to the table. Introverts tend to be very creative and thrive in strategy development, innovating and taking smart risks. When paired with an extroverted colleague they can balance each other out and be a really effective fundraising duo!
- Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself. Introverts function differently and can get drained from back-to-back meetings or big events. It’s important to understand how you prefer to operate and schedule time for yourself when you need it, whether it be limiting the number of meetings you take in a day or scheduling some you-time the morning after a big event.
Our Favourite Quotes
(02:19) Introverts have amazing strengths all around when it comes to fundraising and especially when it comes to relationship building. And I think one of the top strengths we bring to the relationship building is this ability to really be great, active listeners.
(04:52) Still, to this day, we have this extrovert bias right, where it's like often times I'll read a job posting and sort of hang my head because we're so stuck on that this idea that someone has to be like, grigarious, outgoing, high energy. All of these are valuable attributes to bring to the table. I think we work really well in partnership with our extroverted colleagues, but we undervalue the strengths that introverts bring to the table and in undervaluing them. I think we're missing out on some significant talent in our organizations, and we're also missing out on the potential to raise a lot more money with introverts and key fundraising positions.
(10:09) I would always go into meetings with donors with the primary goal of wanting to understand them better. I wanted to understand is like what makes them tick, right? What motivates them? Why are they drawn to this particular cause? What do they want to achieve in the world with their philanthropy, with their giving? And I think that's another element that's really important piece of the puzzle, too, is this natural sense of curiosity about other people that introverts actually tend to naturally have.
Let's learn how to fundraise as an introvert with Emma Lewzey.
Hello and welcome to Driven's Fundraising Superheroes podcast. I'm your host, Sabrina Sciscente, and as an innovator in nonprofit technology, our team at Driven is determined to help you unlock your true fundraising potential. We specialize in donor, volunteer and member management, and you can give us a visit at trustdriven.com if you would like to learn more.
When asked what characteristics make up a good fundraiser, you may think of ambitious, charismatic, outgoing, but does introverted come to your mind? Emma Lewzey joins us today to talk about why introverts actually make some of the best fundraisers. Emma is an award winning fundraiser with 20 years of experience helping nonprofit organizations like yours build and grow successful, sustainable fundraising programs. So thank you so much, Emma, for joining me on the show.
Thanks for having me.
So can you start us off by explaining why introverts make such excellent fundraisers?
I would love to. This is a topic I am so passionate about. So I think introverts are often overlooked in the fundraising sector. I'll start off by saying that, which is I think there's been like this extrovert ideal that a lot of us think about when we're thinking about fundraising. Where a perfect fundraiser is going to be someone who's like, outgoing and gregarious and working the room and that kind of thing in that being so focused on the extrovert ideal. We've been overlooking these amazing strengths that introverts bring to the table for way too long. So I talk about a lot of our introvert strengths in terms of the real power and the real skill and talent we bring to the table in terms of relationship building, especially when it comes to one to one relationship building. So even though I'll be talking about in the context of major gift fundraising today, I would say introverts have amazing strengths all around when it comes to fundraising and especially when it comes to relationship building. And I think one of the top strengths we bring to the relationship building is this ability to really be great, active listeners.
Right? Like, we're really, really good at asking great questions and listening really well and really deeply. And introverts are not afraid to listen their way to a major gift. Right. So I think that this is a really important strength to start off with is like active listening. When you couple that with another strength that introverts tend to have, which is our observant nature, we really have a good natural skill, typically of being able to kind of pick up on subtle cues. For example, when we're meeting with donors, subtle cues that are easy to overlook, for example, unspoken cues, body language, that sort of thing. So our observant nature makes us really good at navigating, for example, like deeper, more meaningful conversations and even navigating more sensitive conversations as well. So not to start off us off. Those are two of my favorites, really are the fact that we are really, really great, active listeners. We're also very observant and attentive. So it makes us really good at navigating conversations in real time and even handling those more sensitive conversations and bringing conversations to a deeper and more meaningful place, which I think is crucial when it comes to fundraising, period, and especially when it comes to major gift fundraising.
When I was going through your website and for those listening, I have linked all the resources I'm about to mention in the description box. When I was reading your post on introverted fundraisers, I was like, yes, oh my gosh. This makes so much sense because as somebody who also identifies as an introvert, that's definitely things that I'm doing. When I'm having conversations with people, you're observing, you're really taking in information. You're not necessarily thinking about how you're going to get your next point in, but you're trying to understand how to connect with the person that you're talking with. So after reading your posts, I had a totally new perspective on the traits of a great fundraiser, because like you mentioned in your answer, I definitely had a stereotype of what a fundraiser was. An introvert was not in that definition at all.
Isn't that interesting? And I think we really do our whole sector of disservice in the way. Still, to this day, we have this extrovert bias right, where it's like often times I'll read a job posting and sort of hang my head because we're so stuck on that this idea that someone has to be like, grigarious, outgoing, high energy. All of these are valuable attributes to bring to the table. I think we work really well in partnership with our extroverted colleagues, but we undervalue the strengths that introverts bring to the table and in undervaluing them. I think we're missing out on some significant talent in our organizations, and we're also missing out on the potential to raise a lot more money with introverts and key fundraising positions. Right. And I'm so glad it resonated with you. And I love talking with fellow introverts as well. And I totally agree. All those introverts skills would make you a really great podcaster and interviewer because you're going to be listening deeply, you're going to be asking really good questions, and you're just going to be surfacing really meaningful conversations. So introverts make awesome podcasters, too.
Exactly. People need to stop underestimating us.
So you mentioned in your blog that you also identified as an introvert. And I'm curious to know, when did you stop looking at this as a hindrance? And start taking advantage of the skills that you have?
Yes. I refer to myself when I think I probably calls myself in that post a reluctant introvert. So I've known I was an introvert for many years, and I myself have always undervalued the skills and qualities that introverts bring to the table. I think for me, actually, I started really understanding myself better and becoming more self aware about these strengths. About five years ago, when I went out on my own to start my own business because sort of removing myself from this greater culture that did kind of overvalue extrovert strengths and going out on my own, I really had to start getting really clear and really self reflective on myself what strengths I was bringing to the table, what challenges I needed to be aware of. We can talk about that a little more later, as well as those danger zones I need to be aware of and manage as an introvert as well. But I think it did take it's been a long, long journey. And I've known that I've been an introvert for many years, but I think it took about 45 of them for me to actually start truly believing in and valuing those introvert strengths.
Right. And recognizing that those can make us really great fundraisers as well as really great entrepreneurs, too. One of the things that I haven't talked a lot about yet that is such a valuable strength is the fact that introverts have really strong creative streak. We have a really strong creative streak, and we also have a really active internal life and an active imagination. So this is something that can be immensely valuable in a few different areas, including like strategy development, including innovating and taking smart risks. Right. So introvert strengths can lend themselves really well to entrepreneurship. Very interesting, though, is that the same thing. If you think of an entrepreneur, guess what? It's the extrovert ideal starts coming into play, too, that you need to be outgoing and curious and working rooms and high energy, and there's obviously room for extrovert friends and their wonderful strengths, but also a really important factor that we need to start actually valuing the strengths we bring to the table as well, which are many and allow us, I think, to kind of step into these roles, into these leadership roles, into these front-facing fundraising roles.
Whereas oftentimes when people think introverts, they're thinking, oh, that's great for our peers who are in prospect research or like data management. And those are immensely valuable roles, too, that introverts may find themselves drawn to. But we need to really open up our perception around what introverts can bring to the table in these more forward-facing leadership roles as well, including entrepreneurship. Right.
I love to get your perspective, being a major guest expert on how your introverted qualities and strengths have really helped you in that aspect of fundraising, just because, as we were saying, empathy is so huge, and it's such a common trade with people who tend to be more introverted. So how has that helped you in your career?
I think I always first and foremost go back to this idea of active listening, and a big part of that is asking really great questions. So even instinctually, I think when I was first starting out major gift fundraising, I would always go into meetings with donors with the primary goal of wanting to understand them better. I wanted to understand is like what makes them tick, right? What motivates them? Why are they drawn to this particular cause? What do they want to achieve in the world with their philanthropy, with their giving? And I think that's another element that's really important piece of the puzzle, too, is this natural sense of curiosity about other people that introverts actually tend to naturally have. And wanting to couple that with the deep listening, the curiosity, the ability to ask really great questions that enables us just to take relationships to a deeper level. Right. That is an important part of we're talking about closing and really significant investment gifts, six and seven figure gifts, understanding what makes a donor tick, understanding their bigger vision for what they want to achieve in the world, the legacy that they want to leave, and how that might fit in and align with the organization's vision for what they want to achieve in the world.
That is often overlooked, I think attribute of a good major gift fundraiser and the one that introverts just typically tend to come by naturally is this ability to create very deep bonds when they're in one-to-one interactions and they're building relationships that way. So I think it's that really that's just one of the things that one of the most important things, I think, that enables us. Another thing I'll talk a bit about which I haven't touched on yet is this idea of the ability to focus very deeply. So, for example, I know we'll probably get to talking about things like navigating big events, which doesn't necessarily feel like a strength for us, but to be able to narrow your focus in onto one person that you're talking to in a big crowded room at a big event and just be able to pinpoint your focus and really concentrate on them and be able to have a conversation like that in the context of a bigger event, I think that's very valuable as well. And it's one of the little tips that I have that I can share when we're talking about navigating things that tend to be a bit challenging for us or a bit draining for us, like navigating big busy multi person events, because with every flip side of a strength is our ability to create deep and meaningful connections one on one.
The flip side can be a weakness in that it's more challenging for us than our extroverted colleagues to navigate like the big multiple events and come out the other end without feeling overly drained. So I'm sure we'll get on to that topic as well. But yeah, I think introverts actually just to sort of conclude that piece introverts are too often, again overlooked as potential talent when it comes to major gift fundraising. But I think introverts actually bring significant strengths to the table that make us really good at closing those gifts, right? First and foremost, it ends up being active, listening. The deep focus, understanding the donors, motivations all come into play when it comes to thinking about closing those transformational gifts.
Oh, totally. And speaking of these big events, it definitely can be draining. And I know that when I'm constantly in environments where I've talked to people and I have to be with a lot of people and it's very high energy, I can easily get burnt out. So I'm curious if you have any tips or advice for introverts when they're in these situations to help avoid burnout.
I think the first and most important thing is self awareness. Because as I said, it took me a while to really get to the point where I understood is like, oh, okay, I actually function differently. And then my extroverted colleagues, I tell a story, I think, in one of my posts about having to do a lot of evening events when I was working in healthcare, which I actually loved at the time, is that ability to be able to meet with in person, connect with my donors. But the morning after one of those big events, I'd feel like I sort of dragged myself into work. It'd be on my third coffee. My extroverted colleagues would bound in and they're all bright eyed and bushy tailed. And so it can be easy in that sense to wonder. It's like there's something wrong with me that I'm not feeling like energized and bright eyed after an event like that. But that's just a reality for extroverts. There's nothing wrong with it. It's just different in that we tend to need a little more downtime after event like that. We need a little more like alone or quiet time.
We need to be really purposeful about recharging our batteries after a big event like that. So I think for me, just becoming aware of that, becoming more self aware and stopping, comparing myself to my extroverted colleagues and wondering why it feel that way. Because it is, again, the kind of ideal that we like, line everything up with in fundraising. But it's not the reality for most of us. And there's nothing wrong with needing a little bit of downtime, a little bit of recharge time to actually refuel your batteries again after a big event. So knowing that this is the reality and to some degree, arranging your schedule around that as much as you can, recognizing you don't always have control over that schedule. And for leaders, right, chances are you are leading a team. I hope you're leading a team that has both introverts and extroverts on it. If you're not, you're missing out for sure on a varied range of skills and talents. But for leaders, I really want to encourage you to start thinking about this as like, actually, how are you actually making your workplace a friendly environment for introverts? Because again, the workplace tends to be really geared to extroverts everything from our kind of employee engagement and rewards being like, social events to open concept offices to kind of an expectation that someone might need to rock up at 09:00 A.m. After they've been at a big event until like midnight.
All those things are very much geared to extroverts. And I think if you want to attract and retain talent that includes introverts, you need to be thinking about how can we actually make this a friendlier place for introverts where they feel more welcomed and more able to be their whole selves and able to take that time out, that they need to have quiet time and refuel and recharge? I always remember being taken off on a retreat, like a staff retreat that was supposed to be a bit of a treat for everybody. And it was so obvious it was designed entirely by extroverts because I think it was like three days and it was in a beautiful spot. It was at like in a nature Sunshine, and it was lovely. But I think it was literally three days of unlike ending together time, which included like, room sharing with colleagues and social events, social so much together time. And then we also have to return to the office, like the Monday afterwards. If you want to wreck your introverted colleagues, that's a great way to do it. So just be thinking about when you are organizing things, when you're organizing workplace events, benefits, incentives, like how you're structuring even the office, how are you giving introverts what they need in terms of this time to unplug recharge?
And as I said, it can be very difficult if you are in a very extrovert focused environment, which most of our organizations are. But I encourage you to really think about what do you need and how can you carve that out in your schedule? Because even the power of stepping away from the office, this is one of my favorite things to do, is I would take my actual lunch break, I would step away from my desk and I would maybe get outside, just go to a little local park, even though I work right downtown in the city, get a little quiet time, listen to the wind and the trees, everybody's a bit different. But knowing how you can have that downtime and recharge and the fact that you can actually find that in little pockets in your day can really help, especially if you don't have a lot of control over your schedule. If you are in a very sort of extrovert focused work environment, which many of our nonprofit are.
Finding that time is so important. And I think that you mentioned this in one of your blog posts. Even Zoom meetings can be really draining, even though it's online. And I found it really helpful to put a cap on meetings like, okay, I can only handle probably three 1 hour meetings in a day, and I need to make sure I'm putting breaks in between because you can have the first donor, and that meeting goes great. And then by the third person, you're like, oh, my gosh, I need to take a nap, I need a break.
That's good. And that reminds me of a huge learning experience in my fundraising life where I did that. I was out with my CEO, and we said, okay, we're together. We're actually going to do three backtoback in person, like donor calls, because it just works out really well that way. And again, same thing. It was just like, back to back to back to back. And my CEO left it again, like, feeling energized and excited. And I was like, well, I enjoyed that. But wow, it took it out of me. It took it out of me, and that was in person. So I learned that for me, in order to be most effective, most present in my meetings with donors, which is really important, then I needed to not necessarily do kind of like three back to, back to back to back, because I know in the last meeting I'm not going to be performing at my best. And I think I'm glad you brought up Zoom meetings because I think, oh, it's such a challenge there. I think it's a challenge for all of us. Introverts, extroverts, everyone in between that we're just not designed as humans to be interacting at this level.
In 2D, we do what we need to do. For one, I'm grateful for the technology to be able to keep connecting with folks through the pandemic, but it definitely is. We have to recognize how much more tiring it is for our brains, introvert or extrovert. But I think it is particularly even more tiring for introverts, especially when it comes to this observant nature. I'm talking about when you are kind of trying to process subtle cues, subtle verbal cues, subtle body language cues. Doing that in 2D on Zoom is so much more difficult. So our brains are really working double time, which makes us certainly feel much more drained at the end of the day. And I think that's true across the board, but I think it's especially true for interns. We need to be really conscious about the degree to which Zoom calls and virtual meetings can drain us and just make sure we're building in those breaks, building in that recovery time so that we can be at our best.
And I'm glad that you mentioned your experience with the three in person meetings, because I'm curious to know, what can introverts do when you're stuck environments like that where they kind of have to be in a big gala or meeting with people back to back in an office, how can they Resenter themselves in order to showcase their strengths?
I love that because it is going to happen. None of us have such control over our lives or our schedules that we're not going to be in a marathon mode to some degree. Right. We are going to be in those back to back meetings sometimes we are going to be at those big events and may have sort of busy periods where things get intense. So I would go back to what I was talking about, the power of being really purposeful about taking short breaks and unplugging. And when I say short breaks, it's not kind of checking your email. Scrolling social media is like unplugging. Even going for a walk around the block, building in like those short little breaks, even for me, building in what I do because I have my schedule available online, I build in little 15 minutes, buffers between all of my meetings. So it's just like, okay, I just got to recenter myself, have a sip of water, maybe step outside, get a breath of fresh air, knowing that I do perform at my best when I do have a chance. So recognizing that you don't have to do a marathon without taking those small little breaks, I'm thinking of big events and it wouldn't be unusual for me, for example, to be like, okay, I've been done an hour of working that room to just either step outside, even step into the bathroom just to do some breathing, just have some quiet time, and then back out into the fray again.
Right? So thinking about this power of taking short breaks for yourself just to process things, to resent to yourself, I am definitely I know it's not for everybody, but I am a big fan of the power of mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation as well. That can be a super helpful tool for introverts, especially. And again, you don't need an hour. You can get little five to ten minute recharges if you are in a really long marathon place that can be very powerful. And again, I think going back to this idea of knowing yourself, knowing what works well for you, self awareness is huge because what works well for me might not work well for somebody else and just kind of figuring out how do I best recharge, what do I need for myself? What kind of breaks do I need? For example, for me, if I've had a super busy, busy backtoback week, I know that I cannot necessarily have like a super social weekend and then enter into another super busy week. So I know that I need to build in some downtime for myself on the weekend, whether it's sneaking away to read a book that's one of my favorite introvert activities, reading quiet time.
But knowing yourself and how you recharge and being really purposeful about building that in. Because quite honestly, as introverts living in an extroverted world, no one's going to do it for us. So we really need to assert ourselves and actually carve out that time for ourselves. And we do need to recharge and understanding what works well for you is really powerful as well. And definitely recognizing the power of like, you can't get by on a marathon forever just taking micro breaks. You need bigger breaks. But if you are in a long stretch of a day or a long stretch of a gala, it's just like figuring out how to build in those little micro breaks for you. Even if you steal away for like five minutes to be not with like, 400 people to resent it yourself and come back again to you. Do what you need to do to be at your best for sure. And again, leaders and organizations start thinking about how you can build this in and build in some greater flexibility to make sure you're enabling your whole team to be operating at their best because that looks different for introverts than it does for extra rates.
For sure, it does totally well. On that note, I'm going to say thank you, Emma, for joining me again on the show. Before we leave today, can you let our audience know how they can get in touch with you?
Absolutely. So you can find me at blueskyphilanthropy.com. I do a lot of writing about major gifts and fundraising and a lot of writing about how to tap into those introvert strengths as a fundraiser or a nonprofit leader. And yes, you can find me at blueskyphilanthropy.com. I'm active on all of the social media platforms LinkedIn, etc. All LinkedIn, probably most. And you can find me by searching Emma Louise a big thank you again.
Thank you to Emma for coming onto the show. I have linked all of her resources in the description box below and I highly recommend you get in touch with her if you'd like to work on your strategy for the rest of 2022 or even for the new year. And if you'd like to learn more about us at Driven, you can give us a visit at trustdriven.com there. You can access old podcast episodes, other resources like our blog, and sign up for our newsletter. Thank you so much for listening and we'll see you next time on the Fundraising Superheroes podcast.