Take-away: Do a self-scan before asking, and get happy so you show up anticipating a “Yes!” not bracing yourself for “No.”
You’re about to ask for a major gift. Your donor’s been thanked for their past giving and kept involved. You know about their family, their interests and their philanthropy. You have a project they’ll love at a cost they can afford. It’s time to ask, right?
Wrong. You’ve left the most important thing of all off your checklist.
Your state of mind. How are you feeling? If you’re tired or discouraged, you may sabotage your efforts. “They’ll hate this idea,” your inner voice whispers. “It’s too much money. I wish I didn’t have to do this. I look awful in this suit.” Don’t ignore your downhearted-self. Be kind to it.
Stop. Get happy. Then show up as the person ready to hear “Yes!” not the one expecting a “No.”
“How am I supposed to get happy?” you ask, and “Are happy people more successful askers?”
Yes, and yes.
Shawn Achor, author of New York Times Bestseller, The Happiness Advantage and one of Harvard’s most popular lecturers has demonstrated there’s a science to happiness, that it improves achievement in work and in life. His research identifies the following simple, free and proven ways to get happy:
1. Count your blessings-Write down one thing that happened in the last 24 hours for which you’re grateful. Do it every day. The 24-hour rule forces you to reflect on something new each time.
2. Journal meaning: It’s hard to be happy if you find your life meaningless. Start seeking meaning, and you’ll find it… in a cloud that reminds you of childhood, in the smell of new-mown grass, in your partner’s glance when you share a joke. We too often miss these moments. Write down one such experience every day, and you’ll become a happier person.
3. Perform a kindness with no expectation of return: I mentor younger colleagues, pick up trash when I take a walk and let stressed drivers precede me. If you start looking, you’ll discover opportunities to commit random acts of kindness. I find secret virtue yields an exquisite kind of happiness.
4. Meditate: If you are trained in meditation, do so regularly, and before you ask. If you don’t know how, just sit in a quiet space and watch your breath go in and out for two minutes. You can calm yourself when anxious. Meditate regularly and you’ll be happier, gain a sense of perspective and become more resilient.
5. FAB 15: Take a walk or exercise any way you like for 15 minutes. Take a walk in the fresh air, under a starry sky or on a city street full of fascinating people will make you happier. Working out seriously is best, but you don’t need to suit up or go to the gym. Just take a walk.
You may develop your own happiness rituals. I look at pictures of my children before tackling grant proposals and envision individual donors saying “Yes!” in twenty different ways. Whatever you do, stop and take a minute to see how you’re doing before asking.