Listening Your Way to a Gift
It is difficult. Most of us like to talk. And we like the sound of our voices.
But being a great listener — an active and engaged listener — is key to deep relationship building and fundraising success. Beyond listening, you need to know what questions to ask — the questions that help you get to know your donor and his or her values, dreams and aspirations. Jerry is a master at this!
This week I was with a client's donor. The volunteer I was with is a master at asking questions. He asked a few life experience questions that prompted stories he had heard before. They were stories that the donor loved to share and that gave great insight into who he is.
After about 40 minutes of hearing these fascinating stories, we moved on and asked for some fundraising advice. Would he be willing to approach a foundation that he clearly has the best relationship with? He spoke for another 25 minutes about the foundation — it was a hopeful cause he shared and then he offered examples (painful examples) of how it had affected him.
At any point in the story we could have stopped him and moved on. We continued to listen. At the end, as he shared and processed, he decided that indeed he was the best person to make the contact and that he was willing to do so.
"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you," Dale Carnegie wrote in "How to Win Friends and Influence People."
Yes, we need to share about our organizations, our causes and opportunities to transform lives. But along the way we need to do far more listening than talking. We need to learn how or why our donors or prospective donors are or might be connected with what we're doing. We need to learn their values. We need to learn their goals, and we need to learn about their family and business circumstances. This is genuine relationship building. It takes time — and a lot of listening.
Gail Perry shares that the kiss of death for every fundraiser is being boring — and you are boring when you talk too much.
For the next week — take a test. Try to purposefully talk less and to ask more questions. Take the time to discern key questions that will help deepen a relationship. See how it changes how you interact with others — and especially your donors and potential donors.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.