Practice Your Major Gift Curiosity
Do you ever come home after a party and realize that no one at the party ever asked you anything about yourself? Do you find that this is a reoccurring situation?
I don’t know about you, but I find that most people I come in contact with are just not very curious.
I just don’t get it. I guess ever since I’ve been a little kid I wanted to ask questions and find out more about something. But, perhaps we’re just so wrapped up in our own lives we have little desire to know what others are doing, feeling and thinking?
In one of our recent live chats for our on-line Major Gift Academy we were discussing how important the attribute of curiosity is for being a great major gift officer. We debated whether or not curiosity was just something engrained in you or if it was something you could practice and get better at.
I think it’s both, actually. Some people are just born curious. I remember when I was a kid and I would be over at a friends house and I would be “grilling” his parents about something, and my friend would finally say, “Would you just shut up? Geez, you ask a lot of questions!” Yeah, I’m sure I was pretty annoying.
Okay, that is one extreme, but mostly you are probably somewhere in the middle. And, in your daily work with everything you have to do as a major gift officer (MGO), it’s hard to find time to step back and be curious about the donors in your portfolio.
What we concluded in our “live chat” the other day was that, to be a great MGO, you have to carve out time either each day or a part of your week to look at your major gift caseload and let curiosity start to take over.
In other words, being curious with your donor means you are actively trying to figure out what makes your donor tick. What drives them to make the gifts they do? Why do they have passion for our organization? What happened in their life to make them who they are?
How often do you think about your donors this way?
Exactly… not enough.
Here are some practical tips on how to maintain your curiosity and to use it when you are talking with donors:
- Carve out time. Every day—whether it’s for 45 minutes or 4 hours during the week—to focus on your portfolio and ask yourself a series of questions about your donors that allows you to find out their passion and interests and why they have them. Target your A-level donors first.
- Create a list of questions. Write down a list of questions that you would ask if a donor is sitting next to you. Questions like: What inspired you to give to our organization? Why did you invest in this particular program or ours? What inspires you the most? What brings you joy? What has been your experience when you have given a gift to our organization? What was the best experience you ever had when you gave a gift and why? What is your vision for your philanthropy? What are you passionate about outside our own organization? Why are you passionate about it? Did the way you grew up affect how you give to others?
- Keep that list with you. After you have created your list of questions, tape it to your desk, keep a miniature version of it in your purse or wallet, put it up in your home. Why? So that it becomes part of you.
- Practice curiosity. Take those questions and practice them on as many people as you can. Get in the habit of asking meaningful questions. The more you ask these questions the easier it will be with your donors.
- Listen. The powerful part of being curious is the ability to listen. Ask the question, then sit still and really hear your donor. What your donor tells you will lead you to where you should go next.
If you want to be a great MGO, you need to be curious. Whether you have it naturally or whether you need to practice—it doesn’t matter. Curiosity will lead you and your donors on an incredible journey where you really get to be that bridge by taking the donor in one hand and in your other, taking the need your organization addresses and bringing them together.
How will you practice major gift curiosity today?
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.