This is something I’ve had to remind myself of lately as I’ve struggled with putting to practice what I’ve been preaching. I have written about the importance of breath and clearing the mind, yet I have had numerous sleepless nights because my mind has taken over. I meditate and take deep breaths, counting my breaths, envisioning blue skies in my mind and the next second my mind goes back to the clutter that kept me awake. It is a reminder how powerful our minds are and the strong mind body connection.
Frustration kicks in when I’m unable to return to a place of observation and that’s when I remind myself – I’m a human being. I cannot judge myself. After all, that is why it’s called a meditation practice. We are constantly practicing, and some days are more difficult than others. But we cannot lose faith in ourselves and we must believe that as long as we are practicing, we are making progress.
I recognize my progress – especially when I observe myself reacting without taking pause. Immediately I question myself how I allowed that to happen. I can’t belabor how I reacted, but my observation is progress.
Sometimes it helps to hold an item to remind you to take pause. I have a stone on my desk that is meant to be a reminder and I often hold onto it to keep my mind centered and calm.
What does this have to do with fundraising?
Fundraising takes patience. It needs to be practiced daily. That doesn’t mean ask for money daily. We must take the time to observe. Look inward. Reflect on the mission and the individuals who benefit from the work that we do. Don’t lose faith. Believe that as long as you are doing the practice, that you are making progress. And if you err along the way, please remember – you are only human.
Depending on the situation, you may feel quality is more important than quantity or vice versa. For example, if there were two groups of individuals given the same amount of money to purchase wine, the results of their purchases could be very different. Wine connoisseurs would argue that the quality of the wine is more important so they may end up with a less number of bottles because the higher quality wine they desired was more expensive. The other group wants to have as much wine as possible so they buy the least expensive wine so that they have more quantity.
At one time in my life I was more concerned with the quantity of friends I had. Sigmund Freud may have said that this was because I wasn’t in the “popular” group in high school. Who knows? But, every weekend I would make plans for my husband and I to go out with a different couple. They were all wonderful, good, and fun people but I came to realize that I had a lot of friends that I could have fun with but they weren’t the deep friendships that I have come to treasure. When you only spend a little time with a lot of people, it’s difficult to develop meaningful relationships with any certain one. But if you spend more time with a limited number of people, then you are blessed with developing relationships that fill your heart.
Does this sound familiar if you are a fundraising professional? It’s the 80/20 rule that 80% of our funding is received from 20% of our donors. I’m not saying we shouldn’t spend any time with the other 80% of our donors, but the quality of the time should be different. For the top 20% that are providing the majority of your funding, you want to have those relationships that fill your heart and your donor’s heart. Do you know what truly matters to your donors? Do you know the name of their family members? Do you know their birthday? Do you know what their favorite thing to do is? Do you know a time in their life that they feel changed them? Do you know what their hopes and dreams are?
When it comes to fundraising, quality beats quantity. Spend time with your donors. You will develop meaningful relationships that will result in meaningful gifts.
Being able to have and express different points of view is what makes our country so wonderful. We are given the freedom to create and develop our own thoughts and then, we usually find like-minded people and gravitate towards them. We learn who shares the same views and whether we can have a friendly debate with those who do not. You know the rule – never discuss religion or politics with friends and family if you want to avoid conflict.
What if that individual is a donor?
I recently had an interesting conversation with an Executive Director (ED) that shared how she referenced a bible verse with a donor because she knew that donor greatly valued her faith. Had the ED not known this fact – that could have offended the donor. Instead, the donor found the conversation particularly meaningful and stated she would be increasing her support.
The ED also shared with me that she had recently meditated for the first time in a long time. Could there be a connection?
The only way to have clarity and to hone into the interests of your donors, is to create space in your mind to allow those thoughts to come through. Take a moment before making that donor call to take a few deep breaths. With each breath reflect on what you know about your donor and what is important to them.
Provide the space and you too will have meaningful conversations.
Give your heart more so you have more time in the world.
These words were just spoken to me by a loved one that is suffering from dementia. I usually can’t make much sense out of our conversations but I felt that this was perhaps one of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard.
Give your heart more…
What is the essence of our existence? Love. To love, we must connect to our most inner being – our soul. We connect to our souls by being present. When we can be present, we are allowing space for our hearts to accept love. When we open our hearts, love will be found.
…so you have more time in the world.
Time here isn’t something measurable. Time here is something meaningful. Open your heart to love and create meaning in your life. Do something meaningful and it will fill your heart but, it is also creating your legacy. A legacy is infinite.
Our donors are looking for ways to create more meaning in their lives. They want to be connected to the work of the organization they are donating to. They wouldn’t have made a gift if their hearts weren’t already open. They recognize the connection – that is love.
The stronger the connection – the more the donor will want to do. Fill their hearts even more by showing them the difference they are making. Tell them a story of someone they helped – even better if they can meet that person. Have that person write a letter to the donor. If it’s a child that benefitted from their gift, have them draw a picture to send to the donor.
Statistics are great but they don’t fill a heart with love. That can only come from human connections. Fill your donor’s hearts and they will continue to build their legacy.
Give your heart more so you have more time in the world.
I listened to a podcast recently that one of the participants defined grace, as “not saying what you shouldn’t say”. She expressed that grace is to recognize when you are about to say something hurtful – and you don’t say it.
Oh my goodness! There are so many times I could have used grace in that way. Instead, I let my emotions take over and the words blurted out. As soon as the words came out – I regretted it, but it was too late.
I now try to make a conscious effort to pause before saying something that I know may be hurtful. I may think it – but I won’t say it. There are still times I fail. It takes practice.
I also think that grace is saying things you should say. In particular, to express the thoughts and feelings related to compassion and empathy.
I love you.
I understand what you are going through.
How can I help you?
I know you are doing the best that you can.
I am so grateful.
The more we exercise our grace by verbally expressing our personal compassion and empathy, the more intuitive we will be with our donors. Not everyone can easily express his or her thoughts and emotions. Sometimes they need help. But we can’t help others, until we master it ourselves.
Make a conscious effort every day to practice grace – both by not saying what is hurtful and, by verbally expressing your compassion and your empathy. You’ll find that it eases your mind and spirit and nurtures your intuition to recognize grace in others.
“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.
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. Youwant your donors to be there for the organization in good times and bad.
Thank you. I have been waiting to hear these two words from someone who has only expressed discontent for a situation I was desperately trying to resolve. All the angst and frustration that I have allowed myself to experience dissipated with just two words – thank you. I finally felt some sense of appreciation and recognition for the efforts I have been putting forth and felt the power of words.
I began to think of the importance of thanking our donors. They want to know that they are appreciated. They are not just an ATM but are human beings who want to help solve a problem. They take time out of their lives to learn about our organizations and our missions and contemplate where they might best fit in. It is more than just writing a check and we need to express our gratitude and respect their efforts in deciding to make an investment with us. Say thank you but say it authentically. Express that you understand that they put thought and effort into making their gift. You recognize their efforts and they are appreciated. Thank you.