Shifting the conversation to money

by Marcy Heim on September 25, 2019

My Y families can SING!!!  Energy! Caring! And giving everyone a role in the Annual Y Campaign!  YES! It was a great week with the YMCA of the Triangle in Raleigh and the YMCA in Wichita!

YMCA group photo Click on the image for video!

Indeed over 350 Board and lead staff can now ASK for Anything Artfully!  And, they embraced major shifts in thinking about that M word!  MONEY!

We agreed…. we don’t really like to talk about money.

If someone said they just got a new job would you say, “Great! What will your salary be?”  Or upon hearing about an amazing trip to Hawaii would you ask, “What did THAT cost you?”

Truth is, from little on up we are programed that talking about money is rude (unless maybe at a garage sale and then you bargain!)  We have grown up hearing things like, “There’s not enough.” “We can’t afford it.” “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” And those comments are often in hushed, troubled tones.

Now when we are talking about GIVING money I say repeatedly, “It’s not about the money, it’s what the money DOES!” Yet, we still need to talk about what investment (money) it takes to accomplish the impact and it still feels a bit awkward talking about money.

Why is there that awkwardness when we are going to talk to others – friends or acquaintances – about money?

  • Do they think we are ONLY talking to them because they have money and we want it?
  • Do we worry that they will wonder if every time we see them it’s going to be about money?
  • Do we feel they will like us less if we talk about money – it will somehow damage our relationship?
  • Will they say no to us and how will that make us feel?
  • Will we offend them?

If you are a nonprofit

While talking about money may feel awkward, we do have to find our way PAST the news of the family, the latest Y success story or the energy the new building creates on campus…to money…and what the money DOES.  What are the investment options NOW for someone who shares your organization’s values?

chat bubble with money

Here are a few ideas for you to consider as you shift the conversation to money.  I’m talking about everyday conversations you have in the grocery store, hallways of the Y, or at the soccer game to more formal ones.  Organizations and givers are different, of course, but I’m thinking some of these conversations may be helpful to you. Or they may help lead you to a more formal meeting for the next step.

Consider beginning the conversation with something like…

“How are you and the family? The dog?”  “What fun thing did you do this summer?”  “Oh, the RAIN we’ve been having!” (remember, we have to really CARE and LISTEN to the answer!)

Then perhaps these sincere openers allow you to switch to money talk…

“It’s always good to see you at the Y (or church or the library or ?) You really “get” the important role we play in this community. We appreciate you – your spark and caring – and we appreciate your gifts to us. Thank you! Let’s talk sometime about what you have in mind for being part of our work (or magic or mission) this year. I’ll give you a call.”

“It’s been a whole year since we talked about your investment in our work in this community.  We’d like to catch you up and hear your ideas, then figure out the best amount for you to give this year. Let’s make a date.”

“You know John Smith on our board. He’s jumping in to help this year with the Annual Campaign. We could have him join us in a conversation. Does that sound like a plan?”

“We are grateful that you understand that, like any business, it takes money to fuel our mission. May I share some ways that others who have your same values invest in our people and programs that may spark an interest for you?”

“Yes, those kids really are fish! It’s because of our wonderful givers that these kids can take lessons. Would you want to know how you can help?”

“We’re in our Annual Campaign now and honestly, it’s hard for me to talk about money. But I know our givers love how supporting our programs makes them feel. Do you know what I mean?”

Really…the BEST way to shift to talking about money is YOUR way – YOUR words – YOUR voice.  And if it is really a struggle for you, say so.

“I think this program is terrific and I know it could be even better with more support.  But it’s hard for me to talk about money because I’m afraid I might offend you or damage our friendship.”

I believe you will find MOST people will reassure you that they want to be involved and want to invest.

Here are 3 actions that will make you more comfortable shifting to a money conversation.

  1. Before you launch any of this make your own gift and be prepared to tell why you give. How did giving make you feel? What will your gift do?
  2. Have a specific NEXT step ready to suggest after your shift. “I will call you to find some time for us to chat more about this.”
  3. For a select few larger gifts, PROMISE to get in touch.  “Are you around Wednesday?  OK I promise to call you in the morning then.” And be sure you keep your promise. It’s very powerful.

The more you talk about money and what the money DOES for your organization the more comfortable you will be. Just like getting better at anything…practice is key!  I also believe that being honest and sharing this is uncomfortable for you will STRENGTHEN your relationships…and deepen the respect others have for you and your transparency and honestly.

You can also start singing, “People love to give me money!” (You can watch my friends at the YMCA of Raleigh singing it here).

YMCA Raleigh Love to Give me MoneyClick on the image for song!

Celebrate that you, as professional development staff, board members and program staff have the chance to help others invest in your work – making this world a better place!  SHINE ON!

Invest in JOY®


Marcy Heim is a trusted authority in the development profession and helps organizations and educational institutions boost their major gift programs through artful, long-term relationship building that dramatically increases fundraising success while promoting increased staff job satisfaction. To receive a free chapter from Marcy’s book, Empower Your Board to Serve as Effective Development Ambassadors, click here.

Questions:  Contact KK Konicek at

Leave a Comment

Anti-Spam Quiz:

Previous post:

Next post: