We’ve all heard it said that the key to good development is relationships. But what’s the key to good relationships? My answer, authenticity. Perspective is critical in any endeavor. How you view and approach your work begins with the appropriate mindset. If we’re truly in the relationship business, we need to be focused less on tactics and more on the art of loving others well.
Don’t get me wrong, strategy and structure are vitally important and have their place. However, second to loving God, there is nothing of greater importance than building genuine, lasting relationships with others. Applying this truth to fundraising may seem like a challenge at first glance, but I believe that the three keys outlined below will help all of us maintain our authenticity in the relationships we build through our work.
- Be Authentically Interested
I recently heard a pastor ask the congregation what their lives would look like if they simply lived every day seeking to build confidence in everyone they interacted with. I love this challenge. It’s the idea of seeking to add value to everyone around you rather than simply looking to gain value for yourself or your organization.
I believe this falls right in line with Paul’s teaching in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 when he writes, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” To successfully add value, it is critical to be authentically interested in others, regardless of what they may or may not give to the organization. Duty is ours, results are God’s, and our primary duty is to love and encourage those around us, period.
- Be Authentically Passionate
I have the privilege and blessing of being the Director of Development for the school system from which I graduated from. The institution is incredibly important to me. Its core values, mission, vision, and forward learning innovation are all things that align with my personal passions. It is a place that charted the trajectory of my future and poured in to me in a way I will always treasure. My wife and I believe so deeply in the school that regardless of my employment status with the institution, we hope that one day our children will be graduates.
Now, you may not be fortunate enough to have that deep of a connection to your place of employment. However, one thing I am sure of, you MUST be passionate about the product or services your ministry is offering if you want your donors to respond. If any part of your work feels like you are selling a gizmo or gadget that anyone could live with or without, RUN. You cannot effectively lead and rally others around a cause that means nothing to you. Remember, your major donors are highly intelligent individuals who are more than likely keenly aware of false motives. They will know whether your passion is authentic or not. If you want them to join you, they have to feel your passion!
- Be Authentically Invested
You’ve heard it said, “actions speak louder than words.” Well, it’s true. Especially in development. Are you personally invested in the ministry you serve? Let me ask the question another way, if you were not being compensated by the organization for which you work, would you still support it with your time, talent, and treasure? Is your ministry a paycheck or a passion?
Asking someone to financially support a ministry that you yourself would not support is a really tough ask to make. However, asking someone to join you in supporting a mission that you are personally invested in is a completely different situation. When you personally have skin in the game, your ask becomes a partnership rather than a one-sided transaction. It’s the difference between “join me” vs. “give me.”
There is a fantastic children’s book by Carol McCloud titled, “Have You Filled A Bucket Today?” The premise of the book is that we all go through life adding or subtracting value to ourselves and those around us. When building relationships, be a bucket filler. If you are the person that is adding real value to the people you encounter, the ministry you serve, and the world at large, the right people will be honored to have you in their lives. When people see that you are adding value, they will know that you are authentic. When they know that you’re authentic, they’ll be proud to be in a genuine relationship with you!