imageThe other day I watched one of my favorite Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne movies. Growing up in the home of missionaries to the Navajo nation, this movie has always been somewhat personal to me. In Rooster Cogburn, Miss Eula Goodnight was in “Indian Territory” as a missionary when outlaws attacked their mission. When she eventually meets Federal Marshal Rooster Cogburn, she clearly has trouble with his misguided and worldly ways. At one point, she quotes an old nursery rhyme:

A wise old owl sat in an oak,

The more he heard, the less he spoke;

The less he spoke, the more he heard;

Why we aren’t like that wise old bird?

That got me thinking.

How Well Do We Know Our Donors?

As I thought about that wise old bird, it struck me that so few ministries really know their donors. We may be very good at asking, but do we look for opportunities to include them in our work? Do we even know enough about them to ask the right questions, and then listen for their heart in the answers?

Joyce Huggart in her book Listening to Others, tells of her experiences of listening to suffering people. “On many occasions I have not ‘done’ anything. I have just ‘listened.’ I quickly came to the conclusion that ‘just listening’ was indeed an effective way of helping others,” she writes.

Some Advice about Listening

Listening is a lost art these days. I think we all can say we don’t listen very well, and often feel ignored. I came across the following advice about listening that I would like to pass along:

  • · When I’m thinking about an answer while others are talking—I’m not listening.
  • · When I apply a quick fix to their problems—I’m not listening.
  • · When I fail to acknowledge their feelings—I’m not listening.
  • · When I fidget, glance at my watch, and appear to be rushed—I’m not listening.
  • · When I don’t ask follow-up questions—I’m not listening.
  • · When I top their story with a bigger, better story of my own—I’m not listening.
  • · When they share a difficult experience and I counter with one of my own—I’m not listening.

Getting to Know Your Donors

Listening means setting aside our timetable, and settling into an unhurried, leisurely pace. As Eugene Peterson writes, “Only in the ambiance of leisure do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance.”

Frankly, it’s not very easy to listen to our donors if we don’t know very much about them. Advocace has a tool that can help you better know and communicate with your donors; and a way to effectively listen to them and learn how they can be a larger part of your ministry. If you would like to see a demonstration of DonorCompassSM, just drop me an email, or give me a call at (214) 412-8057.

And, not to give away the end of the movie, but real understanding comes between Roster and Miss Goodnight (though it takes some mis-quoted scripture). See it for yourself!