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.
I just had an exercise in patience when JFK Airport grounded all flights due to weather. We sat on the tarmac for 3 hours only to then be told we had to return to the gate and de-plane because now the flight crew was over their allowed time.
Long story, short – we weren’t able to return home until the following morning.
As we were waiting to hear if our flight was going to go out or not, I practiced my breathing techniques. I chose the 4-7-8 technique where you breathe in while counting to four – hold the breath for 7 counts – then exhale through the mouth for 8 counts. I repeated this 4 times using the word patience as a mantra.
I immediately felt relief and, now that my mind was no longer focused on the situation of our flight being cancelled; I reflected on the importance of patience in fundraising.
Successful fundraising occurs from successful donor relationships. Developing a successful donor relationship takes time – and patience. It is rare that you will discover that secret ingredient that inspires the donor to make a gift, in the first meeting.
You must have patience and enjoy the process.
Think about your most meaningful personal relationships. Is it with a parent? A sibling? A friend? A spouse or significant other? Now think how much time it took to establish that relationship.
I’m guessing your most meaningful personal relationships did not happen overnight. Neither will your most meaningful donor relationships.
Be patient. Breathe. With time – everything becomes clearer. Even stormy skies.
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.
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.