Listen with intent to be a great fundraiser

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“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 
― Stephen R. CoveyThe 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Meditate with Me

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The world has been mesmerized this past week with the rescue of the 12 Thai boys who were trapped in a cave with their soccer coach. Thankfully they all made it out alive and are now being cared for and re-united with their families. They were trapped in the cave for 2 weeks under extreme conditions.  It turns out that one method used in their survival was meditation.  As Eliza Barclay reports, the soccer coach spent 10 years in a Buddhist monastery and taught the boys, ages 11 to 16, to meditate as a coping mechanism.

Meditation has been proven to relieve stress and anxiety but also provide clarity when making difficult decisions. There are multiple ways to meditate and a Google search will provide 84,500,000 results that will provide you with plenty of information. But you don’t need to spend hours researching different methods or arranging the perfect meditation space – you can start right now.

Take a moment now to sit comfortably. Inhale deeply and as you exhale, gently close your eyes. Now with your eyes closed, inhale deeply and exhale deeply again. Repeat that at least five more times trying to only concentrate on the breath. If your mind wanders, you can count the breaths or repeat a word such as calm – peace – quiet – with each breath.  When you are ready, gently open your eyes and take a moment to feel the difference within. You should feel calmer and more relaxed. Now you are in a much better position to tackle whatever challenge lies ahead.

I find it very useful to meditate before an important meeting or solicitation. It provides a clear mind and a calm demeanor.  Try practicing the technique every day and increase the number of breaths you take before you open your eyes. Make a sign to post on your cubicle or door with the message, “Please do not disturb – I am meditating”.

Imagine if others follow your lead and take a few minutes in their crazy day to close their eyes and breath deeply. I am willing to bet your office environment will reflect a greater sense of calmness. You may even find your donor meetings have better results. Give it  a try! Namaste.

Vulnerability

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Are you the type of person that wears their heart on their sleeve? I am and I find it very difficult to hide my feelings when going through difficult times. If I’m with a donor and they ask “How are you?” – and I can’t honestly say that “I’m good” – then I won’t I share what’s going on in my life that is causing me distress. I don’t spend a lengthy time discussing it, but, in one sentence will share what the challenge is. For me, it’s brought me closer to my donors. I am speaking to them as a friend. If I’m asking them to share intimate details about their passions, family, and background, then I should be willing to share some of my personal details. And when I say personal details I mean outside of the office. If there are difficulties at work, I would never share that with a donor because they should always feel confident that the organization is strong.

We should always talk to our donors as if they are our friends. You want them to want to spend time with you – have a smile on their face when you call, instead of thinking “What is she going to ask me for now?” I’ve actually had donors call me and ask me to lunch! Just because they want to catch up on how my family is doing.

I’ve spoken about the importance of authenticity previously and it is especially important here. You are sharing your personal life with them because there is a genuine connection. You both care deeply about the organization and its mission. Friends are there for you in good times and bad. You want your donors to be there for the organization in good times and bad.

Compassion

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I recently came across an article that describes compassion as a way to open our attention and make it more inclusive, transforming the way we view the world and ourselves.  But how do we bring that into our daily lives? I’ve been practicing mindfulness for many years and I emphasize practicing because it is a challenge to bring calmness to the chaos in the mind to feel present. When you experience that feeling of presence, you definitely see the world differently and with compassion. For me, it provides me the insight when I am faced with a challenge particularly when the challenge involves personal relationships. I am able to recognize how we all get caught up very easily in focusing on ourselves and us vs. them.  Compassion is understanding that we are all connected and it begins with kindness to ourselves. We need to take care of ourselves so that when we are faced with challenges, we don’t allow the negativity to consume us. Self-care allows transformation in many ways. My self-care regimen includes meditation, journaling, exercise, and a focus on gratitude. Even in the worst of times, there has to be one thing you can be grateful for. It might be a hug from someone you love or a cup of coffee because if you’re like me – you can’t function in the morning until that cup of coffee.

What does this all have to do with fundraising? We cannot fundraise unless we have compassion. Not only for the people we serve but our organization as a whole. Nonprofit work is difficult with lower salaries and long hours but we must be united in our mission and understand every individual plays a role in our success. Compassion starts internally and then will be expressed to our donors, which they see as passion. I have had many donors say how obvious my passion is. That gets them excited and they want to join in because they feel the connection. It’s the connection that you must focus on. It is not me – not you – but us. We are all one. When we treat our donors with compassion, we can transform the world together.