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Setting Intentions: What Do You Want?

nonprofit fundraising

In acting, an actor sets an intention to bring their character's desires to life. This intention gives direction to their performance and drives their interactions with other characters. For example, an actor may set the intention "to win over the love of my co-character." This intention guides their expressions, the tone of voice, body language, and more.

Similarly, a fundraiser can adopt the same technique, setting clear intentions before engaging with potential donors. The intention serves as the fundraiser's "character motivation" and can steer their actions and responses. For example, a fundraiser may set an intention like "to inspire this prospect to see the value in our cause." This intention could inform the stories they choose to share, the emotions they aim to evoke, and the specific ask they make.

In both scenarios, it's not enough just to go through the motions. An actor can't merely recite lines and a fundraiser can't merely request money. Both need a clear intention behind their words and actions to bring authenticity and effectiveness to their roles.

In both acting and fundraising, the process is a dynamic one. The actor's intentions might shift based on reactions from other characters, just as a fundraiser's approach may change based on the potential donor's responses. This need for responsiveness and adaptation underscores the importance of setting clear intentions but also being flexible and open to changing course as needed.

Here are a few exercises fundraisers can do on their own to improve intention-setting skills, similar to the way actors might practice.

  1. Visualization: Visualization is a technique used widely in acting and can be effectively adapted for fundraisers. Imagine an upcoming meeting with a donor, picturing the setting, the conversation, and the responses you might receive. Visualize how you'll express your intention through your words, body language, and tone of voice. You can even visualize successfully achieving your intention and the positive outcomes that result.
  2. Monologue Practice: Write down a potential conversation with a donor, and then act it out as a monologue. Emphasize not only what you want to say but also how you want to say it to effectively convey your intention.
  3. Journaling: Reflect on past experiences and interactions in a journal. Write about what worked well, what didn't, and how your intention influenced the outcome. Use these reflections to refine your intention-setting for future interactions.
  4. Affirmations: Write down your intention as a positive, present-tense affirmation (like "I build strong, meaningful connections with donors"). Repeat this affirmation to yourself daily. Over time, this can help you internalize your intention and bring it into your actions more naturally.
  5. Role Switching: Think about a meeting from the perspective of the donor. What might they be looking for in the interaction? How could you best address their needs and interests? This kind of perspective switching is a common acting technique and can give you valuable insights into how to set and fulfill your intentions.
  6. Objective Setting and Review: Set specific, measurable objectives for your fundraising goals and review them regularly. This can help you develop a clearer understanding of what you want to achieve and the steps you need to take to fulfill these intentions.

Both actors and nonprofit fundraisers set intentions to bring direction, focus, and authenticity to their work. By clearly defining what they want to achieve in their interactions, they can more effectively engage others and drive towards their desired outcomes.

Remember, like any skill, setting and acting on intentions improves with practice. Be patient with yourself and remember that even small steps can lead to significant growth over time.

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