Stop and Get Close to the Pain
I would like for you to do one thing right now as you read this.
Stop for a moment, go to a quiet place and focus on the problem your organization is dealing with. It could be homelessness, drug addiction, abuse of people or animals, the effects of humankind on the environment—whatever it is, focus on it.
And let yourself go to the pain of the situation. What does it feel like to be homeless, hooked on drugs or abused by others? If you could attach feelings to the earth, what does it feel like to have once been a pristine lake filled with wildlife and beauty and now suffocated in pollution, garbage and filth?
What is it like to be jailed unjustly, to be treated unfairly or used as labor against your will? What is it like to be verbally or physically bullied and beat up—to be put down and made small? What is it like to be in such horrible pain that you cannot sleep or find peace? Or, to be alone—really alone, where no one cares? How does it feel to believe you are nothing, you are worthless, you turned out just as your father said you would—a good-for-nothing waste of time and energy who should have never been born.
Stop for a moment and get close to the pain.
I have two reactions when I put myself through this process, which I frequently do.
First, I am thankful for how blessed I am and how good my life is. I am overwhelmed as I am reminded of the great goodness that has come my way, embraced me and healed the pain in my life.
Then I am reminded that I am here for others—that this job of mine is to bring help, healing, restoration, hope and life to others.
And the whole exercise puts things into perspective. If you do this once a week, I can promise you several benefits:
- You will rise above your present circumstances—you may be in a work situation that is frustrating, demeaning or just plain boring. Now you will rise above it and be reminded of your purpose. It will help you through the day.
- You will be in a better place to handle donors—when you allow the day-to-day to affect you, it moves you away from the essence of what you are trying to do. And when you move away from that core truth, you end up saying and doing the wrong things with donors. Why? Because you have moved away from the need and the pain. You have layered yourself away from those you are here to serve, and that layering desensitizes you. This is not a good place to be as a major gifts officer (MGO). On the other hand, if you, once a week, take yourself to the need and pain, you will be in just the right place to talk to donors. Why? Because then you can take there there, as well, and they will want to help.
- You will be more thankful for who you are and what you have—there is nothing like comparing your situation to other people's to put everything in perspective. It will do wonders for you, believe me.
- You will become a more compassionate, empathetic and caring person—and that is good. Because in this area of major gifts, the most effective MGO is the one who has had the experience, has been to the need, has felt the pain and, as a result, has a broken and soft heart.
Make a commitment, as an act of your will, to take time every week to get yourself in the right place intellectually and emotionally. It will be good for you, the donors you serve and the cause you are committed to.
PS: While I was researching images for this post, I came across this one that made me smile. I’m not sure it has anything to do with what I have written, but it does remind me that I need to keep myself focused on caring for others.
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.