Major Gift Officers: Do Your Words Really Matter?
One of my pet peeves is sitting with someone who is just chattering away about certain values and positions, but really has no intention of actually executing any of those values in a manner consistent with the positions that are taking. It is just words flowing out of their mouth—just words.
You experience this kind of thing with politicians, religious folks, sales people and a host of other people. It is particularly disturbing when it comes from people who you want to trust, people who you believe will actually follow through and make their words good.
Jeff and I very strongly feel that authenticity is one of the key attributes of a successful major gift officer (MGO). And one key to authenticity is that the words coming out of a MGO’s mouth are believable and true. So it follows that we both believe that words really do matter.
But wait! There is a whole other side of the communication: It’s the non-verbals.
Almost 50 years ago, Albert Mehrabian came up with the 7 percent-38 percent-55 percent rule, for the relative impact of words, tone of voice and body language when speaking. His basic point was that words matter least in communication and our body language matters most.
According to the Wikipedia article I link to above, these three elements of communication account differently for our liking for the person who puts forward a message concerning their feelings: words account for 7 percent, tone of voice accounts for 38 percent and body language accounts for 55 percent of the liking.
For effective and meaningful communication about emotions, these three parts of the message need to support each other—they have to be "congruent." In case of any incongruence, the receiver of the message might be irritated by two messages coming from two different channels, giving cues in two different directions.
The following example will help illustrate incongruence in verbal and non-verbal communication.
- Verbal: "I do not have a problem with you!"
- Non-verbal: Person avoids eye contact, looks anxious, has a closed body language, etc.
An article by MarketSmart brought this subject to my attention. In their writings, they advise “not to worry so much about what you’re going to say when you finally get to meet that big donor. Instead, to land more major gifts, you should study and practice the following 10 non-verbal mannerisms that can truly improve your face-to-face effectiveness:
- Mind your manners
- Exhibit enthusiasm
- Exude confidence
- Radiate passion
- Ooze empathy
- Express gratitude (especially in your facial expressions)
- Demonstrate curiosity (with attentiveness)
- Mirror your donor’s tone, volume, sitting position and posture
- Smile again and again and again”
Jeff and I would add one umbrella value or principle to these 10 points. Do all of them with authenticity. Because if you don’t, then your actions may turn into premeditated “techniques” for non-verbal behavior and will come off phony and unreal.
I really like how MarketSmart finishes up their musings on this topic with a very good piece of advice: “Then when you do use words, make sure to use about one-third as many as your prospect uses. You were given two ears and one mouth. Use them proportionately.”
There are so many words out there. Just turn on your TV or radio or spend some time on the Internet. Even your newspapers and magazines are oozing with words—many of them meaningful and helpful. But I find that people are tired of words. They long for real meaning—something that comes to them and adds real value without manipulative intent. Purpose to give each donor on your caseload these kinds of words. It will be a breath of fresh air for them. And you will feel better about yourself for doing it this way.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.