One thing that’s difficult for me to do is to focus on the positive things people do. Jeff and my wife both tell me regularly that I am too problem-oriented. There is good and bad news to this reality.
The good news is that I am always focusing on what needs to get done and what needs to get fixed. The bad news is that I have a harder time noticing what has been done well or spending any time praising and thanking others for it.
Those who know me well are, thankfully, forgiving and understanding.
This truth about how I am wired has led me to figure out how to “repair the problem,” i.e. figure out ways to improve in this area. So I have committed myself to seek and find the best in others, to TELL them I have noticed it, and to do this on a daily basis. I think I am getting better.
But the journey has also had me processing two things:
- Why we tend to focus on the things we need vs. what others need. Call it a “wound” or “damage” – the focus on self, in my personal journey, is my recurring effort to establish value – to prove that I am OK and have worth. You may be able to relate to that. If we DO enough, others will see that we have value.
- How that focus affects how we think about major donors. In the major gift field this self-focus expresses itself in an obsession with getting the money and reaching goals. We often just cannot help ourselves. Not only is there pressure from management to “get the money,” but we ourselves are wrapped up in the same trap that I personally am in, which is “if I get the money and reach the goal I will have proven to myself and others that I am successful and valuable.” The result of that kind of thinking is that we subtly begin to forget about the donor, and our focus moves to solving the problem of how to get the money.
All of this is often very subtle. You may not perceive it is going on. You mean well; your heart is right. But your behavior is more money-oriented than donor-oriented. I know – that is what I have been doing personally. I truly am a caring and thoughtful person, but my behavior shows that my predominant need is to show value and to self-express. This excludes others over time, which is not a good conclusion.
I hope this helps you stop for a moment and have a heart and behavior check. Are you really focused enough on the donor and what she needs? Are you expressing thankfulness and gratitude at the level and frequency you need to?
Jeff and I have said repeatedly that “the major giving thing” is not about the money, is not about goals and is not (fundamentally) about anything we teach about strategies and technique. It is about helping donors do what THEY want to do with their gifts and talents. All the strategies and techniques are means to that end.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Is each one of my caseload donors actually getting to DO what THEY want to do through my organization? If not, what can you do about that? If they are…
- Am I thanking the donor and expressing gratitude for what they have done? Am I doing it in the right way? Am I doing it frequently enough?
Regardless of how you answer the two questions above, my suggestion to you is to make a commitment to express gratitude to one or more donors on your caseload every day. Yes, EVERY day. This kind of commitment will force you to remember that all of your efforts are about the donor. And it will have the positive effect of wrapping each of your donors in the love, respect and thankfulness they deserve at a level of frequency that truly fills their hearts.
Try it, and see how it affects them and you!
PS – Speaking of goals, make sure you consider our major gifts course starting 9/17, “Making Your Year-End Goals.” It will help you focus on donors who WANT to give before the end of the year.