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.
“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.