Do You Talk or Do You Listen?

I have met a lot of extroverted fundraisers; they are people who like to talk and be listened to and can often speak eloquently and persuasively about the causes of their organization. However, I’ve always enjoyed listening more than talking. I have found that many donors want to talk about themselves, why they do or do not give, and what they do.

One of the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned is that a person feels a lot more of an affinity with your organization if it feels like they have been able to share about themselves. This has left me with a question inside. Which is a more valuable trait for a development officer to have– to be able to speak with charisma and eloquence. or to ask good questions and be a good listener? We obviously cannot have one without the other. In fact, a good relationship is built on give and take, on two way conversation. It is important to be able to make your case and persuasively tell your organization’s story. But, it is equally as valuable to be able to understand what a donor’s interests truly are and how the organization links to them.

How do you go into a donor visit? Do you go in with questions or with answers and a presentation? I imagine that you probably do both depending on what stage of the solicitation process you are in. I know quite a few outgoing development professionals but not nearly as many introverted ones. What kind of development professional are you? Any introverts out there that share my story?

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2 Responses to Do You Talk or Do You Listen?

  1. Miriam says:

    You bring up an excellent point and observation. I am definately extroverted so I have had to work at being a better listener and ask questions that help me learn more about a donor. I remind myself “one mouth, two ears” for a reason. In the end, it is so rewarding to know more about our donors and by knowing more, it is actually easier to help them connect to specific aspects of our work.
    Story:
    We are raising $5 million for our new domestic violence shelter. In March, we invited all $500 and up donors to the YWCA Pierce County to a thank you reception in the new building before we started to renovate it. Over wine and appetizers, we connected with donors who care about our work. One woman came who I had not met before. Long story short, she fell in love with the new project and in short order, gave a gift of $20,000. This week she is coming by with another check for $20,000 because she wants to “name” another room. Every donor that does a naming gift ($10,000 and up) gets to share a story and photo of someone who inspired them. These stories will be framed in the hallways of the shelter to inspire our clients. We also ask donors to share one word that describes the person they are honoring. The word they choose becomes the name of the room…so far we have rooms with the words justice, hope, serenity, dignity and values. We just contacted our naming donors to let them know about this.

    I think asking donors to share a story and choose a word relates to your blog about listening…..it is about making the gift personal and meaningful.

  2. In any kind of negotiation or transaction, it is very important to be a good listener. I do sometimes have to bite my tongue and remind myself that it is about them – the donor. The hardest point of any ask is when you have made your pitch and you just have to stop talking and let them fill the silence – whether with a no, or hopefully an enthusiastic “YES!”

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