I’ve had some growing up to do over the last 20 years.  People who know me will say I have always been a fairly compassionate person.  They will also say I’ve been quite opinionated.  And as I’ve examined my own attitudes over the years I would have to admit that I really did not respect people who were different from me.
If they were from a different race or culture – if they were physically different – if they had a different intellectual pace than me – if they had different styles or value choices – if they chose to follow a different political leaning or religious view – if they were different, I had an opinion.  And it was judgmental and negative.
I’ve since learned that I am no better no matter what.  Nor is my position on most anything better than anyone else’s.  But it has been a tough slog.  And I am thankful for those around me who have loved me enough to point out the beam in my own eye, just as I was trying to direct their attention to the sliver in someone else’s eye.
I am now aware that I know less than I thought I did about almost everything.  And that’s a good thing.  My other realization is that my judgments were merely a way of reaching out to secure love and attention, something I sorely needed, and still do.  Now I try to offer respect to everyone I encounter.  It’s difficult sometimes, but when it is, I have another lesson to learn.
I wonder if you have thought about all of this as it relates to the donors on your caseload?  By “this” I mean the subject of offering respect to your donors.  Maybe another way to frame this is to list some of the ways we don’t respect our donors:

  1. We don’t listen to them – I covered this subject of listening in my last post.  But here’s the thing-  you know what it’s like not to be listened to!  It feels horrible.  It makes feel you small.  Are you listening to your donors?
  2. We take our time responding to them.  So they write or call and they are on the bottom of our list of actions for the day or the week.  Would you do that to your boss?  I know of a situation right now where a non-profit takes the money out of incoming mail the second it hits their facility, but waits weeks to actually process the donor data and thank the donor.  Amazing.  This dollars vs. donors mindset is, essentially, a lack of respect.
  3. We don’t answer their questions.  I could have said we don’t tell the truth because, quite often, that is exactly what happens.  But a sanitized way to say this is, we find creative ways to not answer difficult questions.  You know what that feels like too.  You ask your friend a question – you are seeking truth – and are met with avoidance and evasion.  It is annoying and hurtful.  But we do it to our donors.
  4. We don’t follow their directions.  They ask us to do X.  We do Y.  How does this happen?  If your boss asked you to do X and you did Y you would be in a world of hurt.  You know that!  So why do we do it with donors?  Because we don’t respect or value them.
  5. We don’t treat them as the individual persons they are.  This one amazes me.  A good MGO will surface all kinds of information about his good donor and act on that information. A bad MGO will not let that information inform or influence his treatment of that donor.  I honestly don’t know how this happens.  You know Jerry just loves French vanilla ice cream – he loves it more than any other flavor or type.  But you bring him chocolate ice cream and say, “Hey, Jerry, I brought you your favorite ice cream!”  He, most assuredly, thinks you are crazy.  And at a deeper level there is a hurt. He knows YOU know what to do.  He wonders why you didn’t do it.  Donors are thinking the same thing.  They know YOU know.  They wonder why you don’t do it.

How about doing two things, starting today:

  1. Spend some hours going through your caseload donor by donor and as you get to each donor’s name, ask the question:  “How can I show more respect for this donor?”  Write the answer down next to his or her name. Then purpose to do it.
  2. Begin to practice giving respect in all areas of your life.  You will be surprised to watch how the respect flows back to you.

Almost every day of my life I have a disrespectful thought or feeling about someone.  The times are fewer than they used to be because I am learning to love myself.  I am also learning just how wonderful all these different people around me are.  It’s a good feeling.
But I have discovered that giving respect is a choice I can make.  So can you.  Try doing it a little more with others and with your donors.
Read the entire series:

  1. To Be Understood
  2. Respect
  3. Honesty
  4. Involvement
  5. To Make A Difference