Richard and I have met and worked with so many different types of personalities in our business.  To be honest, it’s invigorating and frustrating all at the same time.  But, over the years, we’ve encountered two distinct types of people that have both made an impression on us and served as predictors of their success in fundraising.
It’s the “Yes”camp vs. the “No”camp.
I know, you’re probably thinking, “What the heck is Jeff talking about.”  Okay, here is what I mean.
In dealing with problems, mistakes, obstacles and challenges, we come across two types of people.  (Yes, I know, I’m making a massive generalization, but hang with me.) Those people who look at the above situations and, almost every time, have an attitude of “Yes, let’s figure out how to overcome these and create a solution,” or those people whose reaction is, “No, this is a big problem and it’s not going to work.”
Richard and I call them “Yes People” and “No People.”
Which one are you?
Do you ever notice that when you are at a party or with a group of co-workers, there are certain people whom others just seem to gravitate towards?  Those are the “Yes People.”  Why do you and I want to be around those people?  Because they exude positivity, they are pleasant to be around and their outlook on their work and life is genuine.
And, that is key.  “Yes People” are the real deal.  They are confident, yet humble.  They have great energy, yet are aware of their surroundings and the feelings of other people.  They tackle problems with a great attitude, yet understand the enormity of the problem at hand.
When Richard and I interview prospective MGO’s and other development professionals, this “yes attitude” is the first thing we look for.  Why?  Because in our experience, we know that “Yes People” are successful.  Of course, experience and knowledge are important, but we’ve recommended people who have no background with major donors or fundraising because they have such a tremendous attitude and outlook.  We know that whatever they don’t have in experience or knowledge they will figure out how to get it.
We’ve seen this happen many, many times.
So, what do you do if you’re really honest with yourself and see yourself as a “No Person, but desire to be a “Yes Person”?  Here are some thoughts, but let me tell you, it’s hard stuff:

  1. Perhaps you’re in the wrong profession.  I’ve witnessed many individuals whom I would label “No Persons” turn into  “Yes Persons” the minute they found what truly brought them joy.  Maybe that is what you need to do.
  2. Get into counseling.  Richard and I are advocates for personal counseling.  Why?  Because you get completely honest feedback from a skilled professional and you can finally allow yourself to “go deep.”  I won’t lie to you; it can be incredibly painful.  I know from first-hand experience, but if you can work with the process, it can also be incredibly rewarding.
  3. Have a friend you trust speak truth into your life. I have a small number of friends who I am fortunate to have in my life.  They know how to be honest with me and tell me when they sense something is wrong and can name it.  If you have someone like that in your life, ask what kind of person he or she believes you to be.  It can be scary, but having the truth spoken to you can change you.
  4. Personally examine your own life.  It doesn’t matter if you take 15-30 minutes a day to sit in quiet or go on an extended retreat.  What matters is that you take the time to examine who you are, why you do what you do and where are you going.  Most of us are so busy “doing” we never take the time to just “be.”  To some of you this might sound like some religious stuff…believe me, it’s not.  Spiritual, yes; religious, no.  All of us have mental, emotional and spiritual sides to ourselves…we need to take care of all of them.

I want to ask you again.  Are you a “Yes Person” or a “No Person”?  In major gift fundraising you will not be successful long-term if you are a “No Person.”  Your colleagues will not want to seek or follow your advice, and donors will ultimately not respond to you.
A “Yes Person” sees what is possible.  He or she embraces hardships and works to overcome them.  As you know, in this profession, they can occur on a regular basis.  Notice I said, embrace hardships, not ignore, run away from or deny them.  Instead, they are tackled, head on.  Believe me, I know what that’s like first-hand.  Just ask Richard, he’ll tell you.
The good news is, if you see yourself as a “No Person”, you still have the opportunity and ability to become a “Yes Person.”  And YES, I do believe it!