Game Face: Non-verbal Cues and the Art of Fundraising

You can skip the botox.

You can skip the botox.

It was in the middle of a hair-raising meeting at United Way – we were within reach of our campaign goal that year, but had hit a couple of snags and were deciding how to cope – when I glanced over at my colleague and noticed her wide eyes and expression of horror.

Our eyes met and we shook our heads to break the spell. Thus our version of Game Face was born!

Ever since, in every meeting I’m in, I try to think about the message I’m projecting with my body language and facial expression. It’s especially important for a major gifts fundraiser to keep a neutral and positive expression, even when you’re listening to a prospect say “no” to funding your project. Keeping your emotional cues smooth as butter is also key when tackling difficult issues in any meeting – with colleagues, donors, whoever.

Next time you’re in a meeting, check for the following non-verbal goofs and erase them from your own repertoire:

  • The Grinch: Maybe you’re like me and inherited a botoxable furrow between the brows. Add a frown to that and you will basically look like a serial killer. I’m not saying you have to grin like a clown, but consider how negative an unsmiling face can appear.
  • The Pretzel: Fingers wrapped up like you’re doing a puzzle. Shoulders stuck in your ears. Chin on the table. Relax and straighten up like your mom always said. You will look surprisingly confident!
  • The Scream. You know the Munch painting, right? Watch out that your pie-hole is not dangling open while raptly listening to others. You will look like the village idiot. Mary Poppins famously said: “We are not a cod fish!”
  • The Voice. No, we can’t all have David Bowie’s sexy speaking voice and divine accent, but you can clean things up a bit with one Do and one Don’t. Do keep the tone of your voice low – no shrieking eels please – and try doing phone calls standing up. For real, there’s tonnes of research on the benefits of that one! Don’t Upspeak. When you end every sentence with a questioning tone on the final word, you will sound like a five-year-old. Most people shake this off in their 20’s and never look back, but I still hear adults talking like this in the workplace. Yikes!

One added bonus of coming across more confidently is that you’ll put others at ease too. Think about that in your next donor meeting and good luck! And for more on this topic, check out this excellent article by Globe & Mail author Leah Eichler.

-Siobhan    : )

PS. Shout-outs to my Work Wife, the original Game Facer, and to Fundraiser Grrl for the great link!


About Siobhan Aspinall

About Siobhan Aspinall: I am a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), passionate about the environment, social causes and surfing. I have been fundraising in Vancouver, Canada for over 20 years and love working with people who have a fear of fundraising. Call me for help developing a first-time fundraising plan, starting up a major gifts program, writing a case for support, or anything else that's keeping you awake at night! Please find me on linkedin and tell me what you'd like to see in future posts! : ) Photo Credit (sanddollar header): Minette Layne via Compfight cc
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2 Responses to Game Face: Non-verbal Cues and the Art of Fundraising

  1. Denise Praill says:

    Oh Work Wifey! One of the GREAT contributions to UW lore.. “game face! game face!” J

    Great blog, lady! Keep ‘em coming…


    Denise Praill

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    P 604.936.3665 C 778.233.6275

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