People wearing masks.Second in a Four-Part series

Have you ever spent time with someone and afterward you thought, “Wow, that person has a great presence about them, they are just so real and authentic!”
It’s hard for me to put it into words, but when you run into someone like that, you know it and feel it.
Now, do you ever ask yourself, “I wonder how my donors feel after I’ve had a conversation or meeting with them? Would they think of me as an authentic person? How do I come off to them?”
I hope you grapple with these questions because being real, authentic, and truthful, and creating a presence of confidence, assurance, and calm resolve will make you a great major gift fundraiser – and it will help you to go beyond what is expected of you by your leaders and your donors.
You have to remember: your donors interact with many major gift fundraisers. You are not the only one vying for their time, attention, commitment and money. Who will you be to your donor?
Will they think of you as someone who only wants to talk money? Someone that they are “just not quite sure” you are telling them the whole story? Or do they think that you are a mature person whom they can trust, because they know you will listen and you have their best interest at heart?
Being real – being “authentic” – will set you apart from all of those other fundraisers who are talking to them. (Tweet it!) Here are a few thoughts I would like for you to consider:

  1. Be real with yourself — Are you aware of your strengths? Do you know where you are weaker and know how to manage it? Would you say that you are self-aware enough be able to take criticism and counsel without getting too defensive? Are you someone that seeks help from others to help manage those things you are not strong in? When people talk to you, is it easy to see that you are passionate about your work? Do you feel confident about who you are? These are all important questions. To be a great major gift fundraiser you have to be incredibly self-aware.
  2. Speak the truth with the donor — Donors of great wealth are wary of others who, in their view, just want their money. Trust is essential. In order for a donor to trust you, you have to tell the truth… even when it may hurt you, the organization or a potential gift. Richard and I have heard too many stories of major gift officers who do not tell the truth to a donor and, while there was no immediate ramification, either months or years later it came back to a world of hurt for the major gift officer and the organization.
  3. Speak the truth with your managers and leaders — It would be easy to “not say anything” or “only tell half the story” or hide something from your manager and leaders. If you want to go above and beyond, you are willing to be vulnerable when you make mistakes or point out a wrong that needs to be corrected. You go above and beyond when you stand up for your donor when leadership wants to take a wrong turn with them. To be great, you will need confidence in yourself to speak that truth.
  4. Always be ethical — It could be tempting to “fudge” the numbers or skirt around the edges of the truth, but your organization and your donors deserve better. You know when something doesn’t seem right. Maintaining your integrity as a major gift fundraiser is essential for trust to be built. Great major gift fundraisers always have a high ethical standard for their field.
  5. Be vulnerable — This is incredibly tough for many people (myself included), and allowing yourself to be vulnerable with donors, colleagues, managers, and leaders can seem scary and may cause you fear. But it also helps others in turn to be open, real and authentic with you. It’s an amazing “happening” when a donor decides to part with their money to do something incredible in the world. In most cases, it takes everyone involved being “real” to make that happen. That starts with you.

Being real with yourself, your donors and your colleagues is an attribute of all great major gift fundraisers. Do some self-reflection. Can you be real?
Read the whole series on Going Beyond What is Expected of You:

  1. Really Knowing Your Donor
  2. Being Real (this post)
  3. Providing Outrageous Service
  4. Helping Create a Culture of Philanthropy