Before Asking for Money–Listen!

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Everyday conversation in the United States begins with a customary greeting that goes something like…

listening ear child

“Hi! How are you doing?”

“Fine.  How are you doing?”                                     

“Fine.  Life is very busy.  Have a great day!”

“Yeah, you too!”

This is often where the communication ends, if it goes this far at all. The greeting is automatic; listening–really listening–is rarely involved.  Research, however, indicates adults spend about 80% of their daily time communicating, with 93% being non-verbal communication.  It is estimated that adults engage in listening about 45% of the time.  This is the same proportion of listening time estimated in the 1929 research by Dr. Paul Rankin.

Interestingly enough, with the rise of mass media communication between 1950 and 1980, the amount of listening time increased to over 50%. Since then, the advent of email and social networking has caused a slight increase in reading and writing over listening.

Seasoned fundraising consultant and author, Mal Warwick underscores the importance of listening in fundraising:

Is she a good listener? I’ve never met a fundraiser who was truly successful without being a dedicated and effective listener.  In face-to-face solicitations, listening is essential to understand the way that a donor’s personal values and interests might be linked to a particular project. But listening is just as effective in direct mail, telefundraising, or other forms of direct response: how else could she really come to understand what a project or issue is about, or what motivates donors?

In fundraising, face-to-face conversations are an effective way to build relationships and financial support. Strong relationships are central to a healthy and flourishing community.  Money and energy flow in community.

Those who are gift stonesinitiating the conversations on the part of the organization must practice active listening, which is an essential practice in fundraising and annual stewardship. One place to start is to find out more about what matters most to the prospective giver, listening for ways they connect with the mission and priorities of your congregation. When we ask questions that elicit the positive emotions an individual has about the congregation and its faith values, the more likely he or she will commit to financial support. Only after you listen and learn can you connect the person’s values, commitment, and monetary resources into a compelling reason to give. This practice of intentional and positive communication is called Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry should be a central aspect and practice in congregational stewardship and fundraising.

Listening Tips for Organizational Stewards and Fundraisers:

  • Focus on the people and relationships–learn what is important to them about their involvement, their interests, priorities, and values.
  • Listen attentively–let them know they are worthy of your attention and a valued part of the community.
  • Ask questions that elicit positive feelings about the organization and the faith values–listen carefully for ways to explicitly connect their positive energy, time, and resources to advancing the mission and potential of the organization.
  • Be mindful that there are generational differences, theological perspectives, and tenure of membership factors that may affect your ability to listen and identify with those you talk with–be open to new perspectives and ask for clarification.
  • Take notes on key points for follow up–let them know their input is valued and will be taken into consideration.
  • Ask for their contributions and commitment, then allow time for them to respond.
  • Express appreciation–Thank!
  • Follow up on any key points and report back–this builds trust and accountability.
  • Thank again.

Wishing you success and prosperity~

Laurel Amabile portrait 2

Laurel signature

Resources to Develop Listening Skills for Fundraising:

Warwick, Mal.  Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth from Your Fundraising Staff? 2005.  Mal Warwick Associates.   http://www.malwarwick.com/

Wilson, Thomas D.  Winning Gifts: Make Your Donors Feel Like Winners. 2008.  John Wiley & Son.  An excerpt from the book devoted to the importance of listening in fundraising is found on the Association of Fundraising Professionals:  http://www.afpnet.org/ResourceCenter/

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Organization’s Philanthropic Culture

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  • Embrace Philanthropy—What it is, and What it does

Philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to causes that create positive circumstances for people and a community. The practice of giving money and time to help others is the heart of philanthropy. The word philanthropy comes from the Latin word philanthropia, from the Greek philein (to love) and Anthropos (human being), and was first used in the early 1600’s.

Voluntary Action for the Public Good.–Philanthropy is not simply fundraising, and it’s not simply stewardship. It’s that and more. The central motivation for philanthropic giving is for the common good: to help make people’s lives and circumstances better.

  • Form a Philanthropy Team—everyone is essential.

From the receptionist to the Executive Director, everyone on staff is a part of the team that creates the culture of philanthropy reflected in your organization. Every encounter makes a difference in creating an impression about your organization and how it is run.

If the first person your donor or volunteer encounters in your organization does not understand the importance of philanthropy, you could lose your donor.

  • Philanthropy Begins with the Leadership—100% participation and no less.

When you assume a leadership role in an organization—particularly board leadership—you must demonstrate your commitment to the financial health of the organization. Every member of the board and financial leadership must make an annual contribution within their means. Every year. If the organization is not worthy of its leadership’s generosity and support, how can they expect others to give at levels appropriate to their capacity?

  • Conveying your organization’s mission, vision and values to inspire generosity and loyalty in the hearts of your supporters.

The development of your organization’s philanthropic culture increases your level of sustainability for the long haul. Your strongest supporters will be those who are passionate and committed to what your organization does to make a difference in the world and its inhabitants. Ideally, the return on the philanthropic investment in your organization on the part of leadership and donors will be the real impact of those you serve. Sharing the outcomes of donor generosity is essential–let people know the great things you have been able to accomplish because of their generosity and support!

  • Express appreciation with sincerity and joy

When the organization is accountable to its donors and honor the intentions of their gifts, authentic relationships and community are nurtured. As organization leaders, we can be attentive to donor needs for recognition and advocates for donor interests in how their funds are used within the organization. Thank often and share your stories of success and making a difference!

May you discover new ways to create and nurture a culture of philanthropy in your organization each and every day~

Laurel Amabile portrait 2

 

 

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Laurel Amabile, CFRE, Giving Speaks blog

Sources of inspiration for this post:

Collins, Mary Ellen. Essential Assets. Advancing Philanthropy, Winter 2015.

Payton, Robert L. Philanthropy: Voluntary Action for the Public Good. www.paytonpapers.org

Generosity Fitness–a New Year Resolution for 2017!

Happy New Year text with cookies on the wooden background from aboveIt’s time to add Generosity Fitness to the list of our New Year Resolutions, for the spirit and expression of generosity enhances and deepens all the other aspects of life. Generosity matters.  It inspires giving and brings happiness to our lives.

This tradition of New Year Resolutions arose eons ago, inspired by the legend of the Roman god Janus, who is depicted with two faces. One of the faces of Janus looks to the past and the other to the future. The Romans believed Janus could forgive their transgressions, so they made offerings and promises at the beginning of each new calendar year.  Janus was believed to take notice of these gifts and bless the peoples’ lives for the year.  That’s where the month of January gets its name.

According to a recent NBC News poll based upon Google search terms most used in 2016, the Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 are:  Get Healthy, Get Organized, Live Life to the Fullest, Learn a New Hobbies, Spend Less/Save More, Travel, Read More. Not surprisingly, these resolutions are about improving one’s life through good health, learning and see new things, and effectively managing money and material possessions. Essentially, this boils down our drive to experience happiness.

A good deal of research has been conducted about the correlation between altruistic behavior and happiness.  Experiments have been conducted at various universities, including the use of brain scans that track the various pain and pleasure centers affected by altruistic behavior, such as charitable giving, helping others, and volunteer service.

OFireworksur pleasure centers light up not only when we receive money or kindness, but also when we give money away or help another out of compassion. Studies show that those who receive money are more likely to give money away, and in larger amounts than those who have not received money before being asked to give.

One Harvard Business School study looked more closely at the cause and effect relationship between giving and happiness.  Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).

So, how might we fulfill our resolution for greater Generosity Fitness in 2017?

  • Make a commitment to a regular practice of giving and volunteering
  • Contribute the cost of your daily coffee to a cause that matters to you–or better yet, the cost of your monthly fitness or golf club membership!
  • A Month of daily acts of giving and kindness
  •  $5.20 or $52 per week for 52 weeks of the year given to your faith community or other worthy organizations
  • Sponsor a program or scholarship that will benefit to those in your community
  • Make a planned gift or bequest to a cause or organization that matters most to you
  • Organize a social fundraising event that brings people with common interests and a desire to make a difference in their community
  • Most of all, use your imagination.  Be creative.  Experience the joy of cultivating generosity in the world!

May this new year bring you many blessings and great abundance~ 

Laurel Amabile portrait 2   Laurel signature

 

 

 

References and Resources for this article:

Anik,  Aknin, Norton & Dunn.   Harvard Business School working paper, Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior.   2009.  http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/10-012.pdf

Brooks, Arthur C. Who Really Cares.  Basic Books.  2006.

Chan, Amanda L. Huffington Post. 2013.  7 Science-back Reasons Why Generosity is Good for Your Health.

Firestone, Lisa. Huffington Post. 2014. The Benefits of Generosity.

Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior. Authors: Lalin Anik, Harvard Business School Lara B. Aknin, University of British Columbia Michael I. Norton, Harvard Business School Elizabeth W. Dunn, University of British Columbia

Smith, Jordan Michael. New Republic. Sept. 2014. Want to Be Happy? Stop Being So Cheap!