“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
Listening is the most important sense that a fundraiser can utilize but do you know how to listen?
To prevent yourself from falling into the trap that Stephen Covey describes, you must be present. Otherwise your mind is processing and thinking two steps ahead – thinking of what your response should be.
The rule of thumb is that the donor should be doing the majority of the talking – not the fundraiser. The fundraiser’s #1 job is – to listen. There will be outright clues and hidden clues in what the donor is telling you.
Here are the steps you can to make sure you’re listening with intent:
- As the donor is answering your questions about what makes them passionate about your organization, sit comfortably and take several deep breaths. As you breathe in and out, focus solely on what the donor is saying. Don’t let your mind wander but use your breathe to provide you focus – to remain present.
- No matter how difficult it may be – do not speak or respond to the donor unless they ask you a question, or they stop talking. Wait for them to finish. Let them talk and just listen.
- As you are listening, listen to understand. When the donor stops speaking, ask them questions to further clarify what they just told you. Dig deeper.
- Don’t respond just to respond. Express your understanding but remember this is not about you. It is all about the donor.
Listening is a skill that must be practiced and there are plenty of examples of people who don’t know how to listen. They interrupt you, are too quick to respond, and when they do respond, it’s not asking a question to clarify what you said, but something else only for the sake of responding.
Don’t be that person. Listen intently. That’s what makes the difference between a good fundraiser and a great fundraiser.