"The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people."
— Woodrow Wilson
Major gift fundraising is more about listening than talking. You’ve seen it and know that it is true; the fundraiser who talks too much tends to fail. At times it is hard to draw a line between expressing our passion and including people into our vision. We lean toward talking where we are in control and more comfortable, and soon find that we’ve left everyone, including the major donor we need to realize the vision, out of the conversation. We believe in our cause so much it is possible to actually talk people out of giving. We become so excited about what we are doing we forget that fundraising is about relationships and relationships are about listening.
Would you rather listen to a monologue or join a dialogue? How do you feel when your friend talks too much and doesn’t listen to you? We have to imagine our donors feel the same way. Remember the art of fundraising is about building relationships not about asking for money. If you can understand and believe in this concept fundraising becomes fun. Furthermore, if we build relationships by listening and caring we will have donors that stay with us for life.
So, how do we “listen” people into giving a gift? We start by asking great questions. Think about all of the things you learned in school about being a good listener. Don’t interrupt, don’t decide what you are going to say next before the person has finished talking – and if you really want to know what someone is thinking or feeling, ask, ask, and ask again. Questions lead a person to what they are really feeling – only then will you know to respond, only then will you understand how your ministry works in this person’s life.
A naysayer may believe this is manipulation – far from it – this is caring! When you rest in the faith that God is in control of your ministry and believe that He holds the finances and the future, you become free to meet and know the people that He sends to you. God does not find particular joy in contrived relationships where the only thing we want from a person is their money. God desires for us to know one another and learn from each other. People love to talk about themselves, they loved to be cared about – so reach out. Remember when you care, they will care. After all, you are the leader and people intend to follow your lead!