My family often accuses me (and rightfully so) of not listening to them.  I admit that I often get distracted with technology or I get lost in my own thoughts when I should be clearly focusing on the person in front of me, taking in what is being communicated to me.
I recognize this is something I have to continually work on.  And when I really do listen, I find my relationships with others are much better.
What this tells me is that we all have a desire to feel “heard.”  And when we feel that someone really hears us, we have a deeper appreciation for that person.  That leads to a deeper relationship.
Richard and I have written quite a bit about the importance of listening to your donors.  We’re talking about a listening that goes beyond hearing what they are verbally telling you – a listening in which you commit yourself to a greater awareness about who the donors really are, what their desires are and how they want to use their resources to make a difference.
This takes hard work, focus and real desire on your part.  It’s no small thing to truly listen to your donor.
Recently, I was talking to John (not his real name), an MGO who I help coach. He told me about a donor family he’s been working with this year.
John has a really special quality about him in regards to how in tune he is with other people.  When you are in his presence you feel you have his total attention and focus.  His ability to listen to you and affirm what you are saying is quite amazing.
This year he has been assigned to this family who has given quite a bit to his organization. They are very personally connected to the work of the organization, Lately, however, they have become frustrated because they wanted to fund some very specific projects, that, didn’t quite fit the organization’s objectives and program folks have been pushing back.
The family’s previous giving was in the $10-25K per year range, but they had stopped giving because they saw no movement on their request.
The MGO who had been working with this family previously had left the organization and they were then assigned to John.  John was told this was a challenging and demanding family and that he had his work cut out for him.
John, however, understands the value of listening to his donors.
He scheduled a meeting with this family as soon as he could.  Over the course of six months, he basically sat with them and listened to their concerns, hurts and desires…that’s it, just listened.  At the same time, he went to the program folks and, for six months, listened to their concerns and reasons as to why they were pushing back on this family.
By really listening to both his donor family and program folks, John was able to figure out a fantastic solution that both parties felt really good about.
The result was a three-year commitment for $300,000!  This was way above anything the family had given in the past and way beyond what anyone in leadership of this organization could have imagined.
When John met with the family to sign the gift agreement, one family member spoke up and said with tears in her eyes, “John, thank you for listening to us.”  It was powerful!
Because John had spent the time really listening to his donor and the program staff of his organization he was able to inspire this family to do something incredible for the organization and for them.
John’s story inspires and convicts me.  I know I need to listen more.  I hope you’re listening.