I was listening to her tell the story. It was about a single mom and her small child who’d been helped by the non-profit. The MGO told me where they lived, how they both had been abused by a very controlling man, how she had tried to run away and was caught and beaten.

And then her heart kicked in. She paused, struggling to find words to express the deep feelings she had. There was a long silence. A tear trickled down her cheek and she was overcome with emotion. I cried too. I felt the pain like I was in the story and close to that mother and her child. My heart had kicked in.

And we sat there for a few minutes in total silence.

This is what Jeff and I believe major gifts is all about – connecting your heart to those you serve or to a hurting animal or forest or eco system and letting yourself feel the real essence of the situation – letting your heart kick in.

At Veritus Group, we value emotions and feelings, and we freely encourage all of our associates to express them regardless of whether it is sadness, fear, anger, or joy. If you hang around us very long, you’ll see that the heart kicks in quite a bit. And that’s good.

It’s good because that’s real life – it’s the real world we all live in. In some cultures, the expression of emotions and feelings is encouraged. In others, everything is tight and controlled. Regardless of where you’re from, if you’re in major gifts, we encourage you to let your heart show. As a fundraiser, you can’t just turn off your emotions, which is why these next points are so important:

  1. Know that humans are first driven by heart and light, and that it is our wounds which turn that goodness and warmth to a dark, tight, and controlled thing. Jeff and I would like you to start with the premise that major gifts is not about money, taxes, power or standing. Instead, it is a thing of the heart. We would hope for you to have this belief as a frontline fundraiser.
  2. It is a fact that major donors want to see good done. They really do. And if you operate with this belief, then your core objective will be to connect your donor’s heart to the cause.
  3. It is a basic truth that major donors want to know that it works. They don’t need to know HOW it works – well, some might. They just want to know it works – that their giving has done something, and it has satisfied their heart.
  4. It is important to change the conversation in your organization from money to healing the hurts of the planet and helping donors fulfill their passions and interests. Even finance people have a heart. We want to help you elevate the major gift function in your organization to a thing of the heart.
  5. It is important to know that there is one key strategy that will help you and all the people inside and outside your organization – your donor, your manager, the finance person, everyone – get their hearts engaged with the real thing.

Let me elaborate on this last point – this strategy of engaging people’s hearts. Have you ever said: “You should have been there.” Why did you say that? Because you knew that if the person had been there, it would have made a huge difference. So that is your key strategy – your key objective. To replicate, through your words, descriptions, and images what it is like to be there, right in the middle of the problem and need.

If you find it difficult to connect your organization’s work to the passions and interests of the donor, it’s because you have not adequately taken that donor into the problem or need. We have written extensively about this in a white paper called Transporting Your Donor To The Scene. I encourage you to go to this paper for detailed help on this subject.

This is a strategy that helps when communicating within your organization as well – people like your manager, your CFO, your I.T. person etc. Get their hearts and emotions engaged with the real thing by taking them to the scene. It will change them and make your job so much easier.

So, purpose today to take yourself to the scene – right into the problem or need – at least once a week. Go to where your program operates, if you can. And if you can’t, be with someone who delivers it and listen to their stories. Get as close to the need as you can.

And as you do this you will feel refreshed in your spirit and you will change. And then, as all of this is happening to you, pass this experience on to the donor and others around you. Together, you all will be in a better place to effectively serve our hurting planet.

Now, if you’re reading this and you feel closed, tight, or defensive – if you are quietly saying, under your breath, something like: “This is a bunch of hogwash. This guy wants me to turn into some mushy cry baby and get all emotional. I am NOT going to do it.”

Jeff and I really do not want you to turn into a puddle of tears all the time. We simply want to see your heart – that place inside of you that is caring and compassionate – that place that wants the best for those around you and for our planet. It IS in there. Expressing your emotions is good for you, for your donor, and for the great cause you are in.