William James, an American philosopher and psychologist who lived and worked in the late 1800s early 1900s, said that the greatest discovery of his generation was that a human being could alter his life by altering his attitudes. Another way to say this is: “you are what you believe”.
There are differing views as to how a person might alter his attitudes. Some believe that real change can only come through a profound spiritual experience. Others believe that sorting through the past with counseling will change attitudes and beliefs. Still others believe that one must simply decide to change, and then change will occur.
I am not here to argue the merits of any of those points. We all have certain beliefs about people, process and things in general, and those beliefs drive our attitudes and actions. And a MGO’s beliefs about your caseload donors is very important as it relates to your work with them.
If you believe that your donors are wealthy snobs who just do whatever they want, then you will be treating them as snobs. If you believe your donors are in it for themselves and really do not care for others, then you will defensively treat them as selfish people. If you believe that what your donors really care about is getting a tax write off, then you will not work too hard to tell them their giving is making a difference.
And so it goes. You will treat your donor within the framework of your beliefs about them.
I know that for me, this belief/action thing is a very powerful force and something I have to watch and manage very carefully. I have a tendency not to give folks the benefit of the doubt at first. I start with the negative – “you are guilty until proven innocent.” This is not good, I know. And I manage it.
But why do I do this? Because I have wounds from the past that cause me to take proactive steps to protect myself in the present. If I don’t manage it, the goodness and warmth of a person I’m working with will seem to me as dark, tight and controlling, and I’ll approach them warily.
Now, the people that know me well know that I do not mean to approach others in this manner. They know that my heart is good and that I am a kind person. But left unchecked and unmanaged, this wound will cause me to misread others by assuming the worst and treating them that way until they “prove” that they actually do have good and clean motives.
Now, I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable with all of this disclosure. But I want to present you with a basic principle relating to your beliefs about and treatment of your caseload donors:
Regardless of the donor’s behavior, it is most likely true that your caseload donor is, at his or her core, driven by warmth, light and a good heart. They want to the best for the people or cause you serve, and the best for you and your organization. If you see or experience anything different from that, it is simply their wound that is showing up, nothing more. Just as you would want others to be patient and compassionate with your wounds, you should be patient and kind with theirs.
Keep this in mind as you deal with the “difficult” donors on your caseload. Believe that the light and warmth of a donor’s heart determine what’s important in their relationship with you.
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