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What are your Activation Energy Barriers to fundraising?

Updated: May 8, 2023

Take-away: Identify your fundraising weaknesses and turn them into strengths.

Buzz, buzz, buzz… BAM!

Snakelike, you strike, slamming the snooze button.

Buzz, buzz, buzz… BAM! You hit snooze again. It’s Monday, your room’s frigid and it’s toasty under your quilt.

You, my friend, have a serious Activation Energy Barrier (AEB).

Fundraising and your morning struggle are both hard, but why? Chemists call it an Activation Energy Barrier, the burst of energy required to jump-start a process, whether it’s photosynthesis or igniting a fire. In fundraising, I call this your Yeah, buts, as in, Yeah, I’d like to get a lot of money for my nonprofit, but

We develop strategies to lower our morning barriers, such as laying clothes out the night before, and for overcoming barriers, such as coffeemakers programmed to awaken us with the seductive scent of java.

Your “Yeah, But” Barrier Score

Similarly, you can develop strategies to lower or overcome your barriers to fundraising. But first, you must know what those barriers are. Try this little exercise.

Close your eyes. Call to mind someone who could donate $1,000. Imagine you’re about to ask them for a gift. How do you feel? What are you afraid of? What’s stopping you? Here’s a list of common “Yeah, buts…” Check all that apply:

  1. ___ They’ll feel like I’m using our friendship to get money.

  2. ___ They won’t like me, they’ll reject me

  3. ___ I/they will be embarrassed

  4. ___ I don’t want the donor to feel uncomfortable/awkward

  5. ___ I don’t know how much to request/if they can afford it

  6. ___ They’ll say no or I’ll fail

  7. ___ I don’t know what to say/don’t have enough information/need a plan

  8. ___ I don’t know how to ask

  9. ___ They won’t see how important the cause is

  10. ___ Other(s):


The more Yeah, buts… you have, the higher your score. If you checked only one or two, you can probably overcome them by using my five-step method (see below). If you checked all nine and listed one or more besides, you’re a 10, and may be unable to ask at all.

If you’re fearless, if you checked none of the above, what are you waiting for? Stop reading this blog and go ask for a gift!

Understanding your fundraising “Yeah, buts”

The good news is, I don’t want you to ask your friends to give if you think you’ll alienate them. I don’t want you to ask if you don’t know how much to request, if you don’t know what to say nor if you have reason to believe they’ll turn you down.

Who in their right mind would do that?

I want to show you how the flip side of your fear is often your asking strength. Playing to your strengths, you can overcome your fears. For example, if you checked # 1-4 above, you probably have great social skills, like my friend Lara, a therapist. Rather than asking directly, you might facilitate a conversation between your donor friend and your nonprofit’s CEO that results in a gift! Everyone is different. Discover your Asking Personality to learn who, where, when, how you should ask, and how you can do so in ways at which you’ll excel.

You can lower your barriers by using my signature five-step method, which starts with thanking, not asking, proceeding through the steps so by the time you get to the last step, asking, you’re practically guaranteed a “Yes!”

You can learn more about my five-step method and discover your Asking Personality, in my book Nonprofit Hero, Five Easy Steps to Successful Board Fundraising, available on Amazon, or for free by request from your local library.

Ignite the spark that will overcome your fundraising activation energy barriers.

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