With Valentine’s Day coming up soon, it’s obviously a time to think about love. But not just the romantic type of love that inspires special dinners, chocolates, roses and sentimental cards. I’m talking about an even deeper love – the kind that guides who you are and what you do everyday.
Together, Richard and I have had careers in fundraising and development for over 60 years. In that time we have worked with hundreds of development professionals. We’ve experienced some really bad ones, and others who were, and are, just incredible. We have found there is one common denominator among the great ones…
And that love can be found in four very specific areas. The really great development professionals that we know love their donors, their mission, their profession and finally, they love themselves. As you know, working in development and with major donors is extremely challenging. There are days of despair and discouragement, and if don’t have this love we are talking about, you will not make it through. It’s just a fact.
So, let’s explore this a bit and then you can figure out whether you have the type of love that will carry you though your career and help you become a light to all you encounter.
Loving the Donor
I don’t know one successful major gift officer who does not LOVE his or her donors. Unfortunately I know many who don’t have a love for their donors and they are either struggling or they burned out years ago. But, what does loving your donors mean?
It means you have a desire to understand who they are before you ask them for anything. Understanding who they are means you develop empathy for their situation in all things, especially when donors are upset or unhappy with something. Loving the donors includes working hard to know their greatest desires and passions by presenting them with opportunities to give that will inspire them and make them feel fantastic.
Loving the donor means working to build a culture of philanthropy within your organization that uplifts the donor. In this kind of workplace culture, everyone from the janitor to the CEO understands that donors are part of the mission.
And loving the donors can sometimes mean letting them go, too.
Loving Your Mission
This is so essential. All great fundraisers are passionate about the mission they are working for. You have to believe with your whole heart in the cause for which you are presenting donor opportunities. Sadly, I have met too many fundraisers who don’t have a passion for the mission and they get restless, leave and continue that same cycle over and over. Don’t leave one job for another just because it offers more money or better benefits unless you firmly believe in the mission. And by believe, I mean being honest enough with yourself and to know whether your heart is truly in it.
It’s an amazing moment when you witness a fundraiser who is communicating to donors with love and passion the cause he or she is championing. I’ve had physical reactions listening to someone talk about his non-profit in such a passionate way that the hair on my neck stands up. That is how in love with your mission you want to be. How often are you making the hair on someone’s neck stand up?
You see, it’s the love of your mission that will ultimately inspire your donors to invest in it. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that?
Loving your profession
Richard and I believe fundraising is a high calling. We use the word “calling” on purpose because it’s not just a job you go to each day. It’s something far greater. Think about it: YOU are the bridge between the donors’ greatest desires and passions and the world’s greatest needs. If you don’t have a love for being that bridge, it will not work. It won’t work for the donor, the organization, or you.
Because you have a love for fundraising you want to learn more, hone your craft and ultimately inspire others with your passion for the profession. Have you ever been in a room or around a table with people who just love fundraising? It’s so energizing and fun! People who love fundraising exude confidence, yet they have a peace about themselves that is hard to articulate.
I know this sounds a bit funny, but when Richard and I get together and begin discussing all the different situations and strategies we’re working on, we inevitably stop ourselves, take a breath, pause and talk about how blessed we are to do what we do. It’s unbridled joy that we experience everyday doing this work.
You may either be thinking that this sounds a little odd, or you’re saying, “Of course you do.” But, this is ultimately the key to being a successful fundraiser. The amazing fundraisers I know have an unbelievable sense of who they are. They have a peace about themselves. Yes, they are passionate, but they evoke a sense of calm that is undeniable. Loving yourself means you can go into a room with a donor and, if you’ve done good work, you will not be devastated if the donor says no. It means you know the right balance of work and play. It’s means you have grace for yourself and others. It means you can see something that is wrong in the world and have a yearning to make it right, but know that you are NOT the only answer. It means you know when to go full speed and when to stop and slow down. It means you understand that loving yourself allows you to love others and others to love you.
Ah, this love stuff. It’s powerful, instructive, …and absolutely critical if you are going to be in this profession. So, are YOU in love?