The Real Deal on Authenticity

Holly Lang
Holly Lang
Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Holly moved to Houston, Texas, to attend Rice University. After graduating from Rice, Holly worked with her alma mater in the development office, focusing on young alumni and annual giving. She also brings significant experience to the areas of membership, retention programs, campaigns and development assessments.


A volunteer asked me recently, what exactly does it mean that there is an “art” to fundraising? There are many parts to the answer, but one of the most powerful fundraising arts is authenticity. Some of the most effective solicitations I’ve been a part of crafting came together when the volunteer solicitors enlisted support from staff and counsel to prepare for the ask, took time to internalize the ask meeting, then used their own genuine words and voice to make the case and ask for the gift.

Why does authenticity make a difference? Well, have you ever tried to give a presentation or deliver a message that someone else created and developed? It feels like wearing your shoes on the wrong feet. At best you can make it work, but you’ll probably be uncomfortable and leave your audience feeling like something was just off. At worst, you’re going to fall flat on your face and leave your audience feeling quite literally turned off.

On the flip side, when you deliver a presentation or a message that you crafted yourself, the results are dramatically better. You feel confident, things flow smoothly and you’re likely to be more persuasive to your audience. Why? Because it’s yours and you own it. In short, it’s authentic.

So to all the volunteers who are getting ready to make that big ask, be confident that you have the art of fundraising inside you! You can (and should) take all the notes and talking points from the staff and consultants who are there to position you for success. But at the end of the day, make sure the ask is authentically yours – that it’s coming from a place of truth and genuineness expressed in your words. Then, take a deep breath, bite your tongue, and listen for the response!

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