Season 3, Episode 26
In this episode, Andrea Kihlstedt is joined by her remarkable friend and colleague, Brian Saber, for an insightful discussion on “Fundraising for Introverts.” If you’re an introvert who’s ever grappled with the idea of asking people for money, this podcast is a game-changer for you!
Brian Saber, the author of “Fundraising for Introverts,” shares his profound insights into the fundraising world from an introvert’s perspective. With 25 years of experience in fundraising, Brian once considered himself a charlatan due to his discomfort with special events, reluctance to meet new people, and underlying shyness. However, through the development of Asking Matters and the concept of asking styles, he uncovered the unique strengths introverts bring to the fundraising arena.
You’ll delve into the core of asking styles, including Brian’s primary style as a “Kindred Spirit” and his secondary style as a “Mission Controller.” Explore why introverts possess a natural advantage in cultivating deep, meaningful relationships with donors, thanks to their exceptional listening skills.
Are you an introvert and do you have to ask people for money? Do you wonder how that might be possible? If that describes you, then you want to hang around for today’s podcast, because I have someone very special for you.
Hi there. I’m Andrea Kihlstedt. I am here not with my usual partner, Amy Eisenstein, but I’m here with my remarkable friend and colleague, Brian Saber, to talk to today about Asking Styles and Fundraising for Introverts, which is a brand new book that just came out that Brian has written, and it is a game changer. Brian, welcome.
Thank you, Andrea. As you know, I am delighted anytime I’m with you, since you are so near and dear to me and we have such history, so I’m thrilled to be here.
A Quick Introduction to Asking Matters
So, just to catch you up. So years ago, how many years ago now, Brian?
Well, when we met, how about 22?
Oh, we’ve known one another for 22 years, but when did we come up with the Asking Style stuff?
We started thinking about it in 2009, and we went live May 10th or 11th, 2010, so 13+ years ago.
Wow. So Brian and I created something called Asking Matters, and really it’s a system of Asking Styles, which has now been well-documented thanks to Brian’s writing. How many books have you written on this subject, Brian?
This is my fourth.
Oh my goodness, I can’t believe it!
Really, the idea behind Asking Styles is that we’re all different. We all have different temperaments and personalities and that we should and can ask differently depending on who we are in the world.
Fundraising for Introverts
This last book that Brian has written I think really is utterly remarkable. It’s called Fundraising for Introverts. Brian, why don’t you tell us the essence of it?
Well, first of all, I am an introvert and I fundraised for 25 years. I was either the Director of Development or the Executive Director, and fundraising was always my number one job. All those years I thought I was a charlatan, because I hate special events. I don’t particularly like meeting new people, I never introduced myself to anyone on my own. I’m a bit shy in fact, though people don’t realize that, and I don’t like the telephone, which many people will say is the way you talk to donors.
Building Asking Matters and the Asking Styles with you was such a revelation to me. It was the first time I valued what I had brought to the field. It was the first time I realized:
“Gee, there isn’t someone out there who can do everything I can do as well as I can do it, and also do all the other things we associate with fundraising.”
It’s been a journey since then in developing this material, really understanding the nuances of it. A few years ago, I thought, “You know what?” This was on the heels, of course, of Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, which was another revelation for me. That came out in 2013 — a decade ago now — and that book gave me such confidence in who I was and the way I go about the world, that it started me thinking about specifically introverts and fundraising, how we navigate it, and then a book just seemed like the next step.
I really wanted to dig into the science behind it and understand it better, ’cause when we developed this, Andrea, 13 years ago, we used our smarts and our experience, and we had a professional assessment builder build it. So it wasn’t out of nowhere this quiz we developed, but we still were taking a brushstroke to it in some ways, and I felt I wanted to really dig deep. It seemed like I was the one to write this book given the Asking Styles, given all the frontline fundraising I have done, given I’m an introvert.
Introverted Asking Styles and How You Can Find Your Asking Style
So Brian, let me catch people up who haven’t yet gone to Asking Matters and taking the Asking Styles assessment or quiz. So if you don’t know anything about Asking Styles or about your Asking Style, I encourage you to go to askingmatters.com where you will find on the homepage a little 10-minute quiz, 30 questions.
They’re true, false questions. If you answer those questions, within seconds it will send you an email which will tell you your Asking Style in some detail. So, that would be a great introduction to Asking Styles if you don’t already know yours. One of the Asking Styles is Brian. Brian, what is your asking style?
Well, I am kindred spirit primarily — and I say primarily, because no one fits cleanly in one box. In fact, we give you a primary and a secondary, which gives you more of a sense of where you might be. So my primary is kindred spirit, which is the intuitive introvert. Everything comes from the gut, feelings-oriented, we wear our hearts on our sleeves, as Andrea, you know well.
Everything is personal for us. Well, certainly for me. I consider myself an uber kindred spirit, and it all comes from the heart, and that helps make us very attentive and caring towards others, because we want to treat people like we want to be treated.
Then the secondary, the other introverted style is mission controller, the analytic introvert, the planful, methodical person who listens and observes everything, and that’s my secondary. So that’s who I am, a kindred spirit/mission controller.
Brian, all these years of having been a very successful fundraiser, which you have been, I have worked with you in that way as well as a fundraiser. All these years you really castigated yourself for being an introvert. You’ve always thought you weren’t as good at it as you might’ve been, until you found out that in fact being an introvert made you even a better fundraiser.
Yes, at least equally good, if not better. I would be biased enough to say better, because I think the number one skill in fundraising is listening, listening, listening, listening. As a matter of fact, the subtitle for Susan Cain’s book is Quiet: The Power of an Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
The Power or Silence
When I teach about asking, I teach about the power of silence, the power of asking questions and sitting back and learning, not going in to talk a blue streak about your organization and give everyone every fact and figure you can imagine, including the kitchen sink. So I believe that introverts, because listening is a stronger skill of theirs overall, that they make superb fundraisers.
When we talk fundraising, we’re talking about the fundraising in which we’re building relationships. I focus mostly on individuals, ’cause as we know, that’s where most of the money is. But even if you’re doing corporate or foundation or government work, you’re still trying to build a relationship with someone at corporate, giving officer, a grant manager at a government agency, something like that. It’s in these one-on-one relationships that this listening is key.
Of course, you’ve got direct mail and you’ve got crowdfunding, and you have other things which are less about listening and the one-on-one, though we’ll see what AI does to that whole field. But for most of it, and for the big gifts, the gifts that really make an organization sing, the gifts that make buildings and scholarships and such, they’re all based on relationships at the key of which is listening.
So that’s maybe a long-winded way of saying yes, I now see that what I brought to the table and all those years and thousands of meetings was the ability to listen and form a relationship.
Building Relationships for Introverts and Extroverts
It’s so interesting, Brian, to think about being able to build a relationship as a characteristic of an introvert. I would think of it as being the characteristic of an extrovert. How do you define those two?
Well, it’s very interesting. Yes, well, we’re all building relationships in life. It’s not as if extroverts don’t have relationships and good one, but they’re modeled a little differently and they don’t always go as deep. Some of that has to do with how we’re wired, which I really learned in researching this book, neural transmitters and how introverts thought processes are longer and deeper and reflect more on their histories and what they know internally. Then this dopamine acetylcholine dichotomy, which is where you get your pleasure from.
So extroverts build relationships, but they don’t necessarily learn as much in them, they’re not as deep. They might be as tight. I’m not saying that they’re any less valid, but they don’t go as deep. I find when I’m with other introverts, we talk deeper, we talk about feelings more. It’s a bit different, and I think that forms something unique with a donor when you’re open that way, when you’re a bit vulnerable, you might say. I think introverts bring a little more vulnerability to the table, though that’s not a word I’ve used much before. As I’m putting it here on the table, I want to explore that. So I don’t know, does that get at-
Perhaps. I mean, I’ve always thought that being an … I’m an extrovert and what I think of as being an extrovert is that I get such a energy, such a kick out of talking to other people. It just lights me up, that’s what’s fun for me to do. People who are introverts tend not I think to be fueled by that, you need to recover from it, not to be fueled by it.
Well, we enjoy it, but it uses our energy, because we’re thinking more deeply, where the pathways are longer, it’s taking us more energy to process our thoughts and get them out.
As you know when we developed it [Asking Styles], we talked about this talking to think or thinking to talk, that that was one of the main differences. Extroverts talk to think, extroverts talk to think, they think out loud, whereas introverts are processing inside and deeper before putting their thoughts out, so that takes energy on top of that.
An introvert’s natural tendency is to stop and think and talk, where, however, when you’re in a conversation and it’s ricocheting back and forth, you don’t always have the luxury of time, so introverts also speed up that process. So I can be with people I just love and cherish, and I can still get tired sooner as an introvert.
So, I think there is a feeling that maybe introverts aren’t as social. We socialize differently. It’s much more one-on-one, it does wear us out though. If I have a day of meetings with donors, I’m not energized, I’m wiped out. It doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy them and find them fulfilling, but they still took a lot out of me. Even a day with friends, my dearest friends will still use my energy.
Right. Yes, I understand that, and I know that from my introvert friends. So Brian, who do you think should read this book that you’ve written?
Fundraising for Introverts: A Must-Read Book for three Groups
Everyone. I do think there are three groups of people for whom this is a must-read, and at the end of the day, it is almost everyone, right?
Group 1: Introverts
First it’s introverts. My first goal in writing this book is to validate all my fellow introverts, to help them feel good in a way they may not have if they’ve had a journey like mine. It’s time for us to know that we rock, that we’re great fundraisers, and the skills we have will take us far. So, I think introverts will love reading this book and will be inspired and amused.
Some of the stories in it, I’m very frank about some of my interactions and what really was going on inside, and I think my fellow introverts will be amused and have similar stories, which I hope they’ll share.
Group 2: Extroverts
Extroverts I think need to read this book to better understand us, because there is a devaluation of introverts in the world in many ways. There are all sorts of studies that show hierarchically it’s more difficult to get to the top as an introvert and so forth and so on. I’ve had introverted fundraisers say:
“My boss doesn’t think I’m doing a good job, because I’m not rah, rah, or I’m not whatever, but in fact, I’m building these great relationships for the future.”
So it’s important for extroverts who manage introvert, who are managing a board of which half the members statistically will be introverts, whatever that position is, understanding your team is important. There are many rubrics like DISC and Myers-Briggs and such that do that. This is one for our field, and I think it makes it particularly rich and relevant.
Group 3: Nonstereotypical Fundraisers
The third group is all the people who probably are saying, “I can’t be a fundraiser, I’m not like that stereotype of a fundraiser.” We need those people in our field. You know as well as I do, Andrea, it has gotten harder and harder to fill all the fundraising positions in our field with people who have experience with anyone. If we’re going to succeed as a sector, we need all the good people at the table.
I want people who thought fundraising wasn’t for them to realize it is. That they might not be the schmoozers at a special event, and people often think of special events when they think fundraising, ’cause often that’s their experience as a volunteer or simply a donor, that that’s one piece of it, but there is so much more, and we’d love to have them in the field.
Right. So Brian, as you talk about this, I think about this book. So, I think anyone who is, for example, a Development Director should buy a stack of these books. Then when they have a board member or a staff member or someone they encounter who says, “I’m an introvert and I’m really not good at that,” they can simply pick up a book and give it to them. Say, “Before you say that, read this book.”
So, I think of these books as a good addition to any development office, because we of course encounter people who are afraid of fundraising, because they think they’re introverts and introverts don’t fundraise. You have written a whole book showing that not only introverts fundraise and do they fundraise, but like you, they’re really good at fundraising.
So, thank you so much for writing this book, Brian. It takes the work that you and I began so many years ago to the next level, and that just tickles my heart, tickles my cockles. Are there cockles to be tickled? I don’t know about that. Something like that.
Well, and I owe so much to you, as I always say, and I say in all my books, because the kernel started with you. You were noodling with this idea, you thought it was a … I will say you thought of the timeout. It’s a nice little throwaway, and I said, “No, this is big, let’s work on it.”
Right. You really built it, yeah.
It never would’ve existed if it weren’t for you and for the two of us—
For the two of us, for sure.
And our wonderful relationship over more than two decades, so I’m very grateful.
Where to Get Brian’s Book
Brian, dear, where can people get this book? Where should people get this book?
You can order a paperback copy through your favorite local bookstore, which some of us still try to do. You can certainly get it online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and other sources like that, and it’s in paperback or Kindle, or ebook generally I should say.
So anywhere you buy a book, you can get this book.
I want to put in a plug for bookshop.org. Do you know bookshop.org?
Oh, yes, I do. Yes.
It’s a great place to buy books, that for every book you buy from bookshop.org, they actually give a contribution to your favorite onsite bookstore, real bookstore. So, it’s a great way to buy a book online while having the bookstore in your community benefit. I try hard to support them, but I also think, Brian, that your book is fantastic. Thank you so much for writing it, thank you so much for joining me today. I know our community will be well-served by your contribution to the field.
Well, thank you, and thanks to everyone who does this hard work in the field. It’s not easy.