Respect - give it to get it.

Fourth in the series: Six Traits of Healthy Donor Relationships

I was with a man several weeks ago who gave me all the outer signs of respect but who, in reality, did not respect me at all. Here is what that looked like and how it felt.
When I emailed him to book a meeting, he told me that it would “be great to meet and I am really looking forward to it because I feel there are a number of areas we could work together on.” I felt good hearing those words because I agreed with him – we really could do good things by working together. I was hopeful that there was a good partnership waiting to happen.
He told me he would meet me at his office at 10 o’clock. When I got there he made me wait 15 minutes. I could overhear the phone conversation he was on. It was a friend, and they were processing the great time they had over the weekend.
Then I was invited into the office. He motioned me to sit in front of his desk and he went behind it. We started talking, and as I spoke he would shuffle some papers on his desk and nod and regularly say “uh-huh” to signal he was listening. When I proposed what we could do, he said they had already tried that. When I probed to see if he had actually tried it, I could tell he hadn’t. And the rest of the conversation was arrogance and non-listening. It was very frustrating.
The man did not respect me. It was not a good experience. Later I found out that he had a pretty checkered past, moving from job to job, alienating people, etc. He had managed to work his way through life disrespecting everyone he encountered. I really don’t know how he survived.
I am sure you have experienced disrespect in some form or another. We all have. It can be blatant or very subtle.
Jeff and I have included respect on the list of traits of a healthy donor relationship because it is a critical behavior a MGO must practice in all of his or her donor relationships. If you don’t respect donors, they will read it, and your relationships will not progress.
There are several ways to show respect to your donor:

  1. Keep your commitments. This is obvious, I know. But being on time and doing what you said you would do is a very good way to show respect.
  2. Pay attention to their passions and interests. It is amazing to Jeff and me that even after we have told a MGO that the donor’s passions and interests are THE drivers of the relationship, the MGO ignores that and communicates other things to the donor! How is it that the donor says they are interested in moms and kids, and the MGO talks to them about taking care of the elderly?? I have no idea, but it happens more often than not. You wouldn’t do that to a friend, would you? They tell you they really don’t like classical music, and you invite them to a classical music concert! You would not do that. Of course not. So pay attention to donors’ passions and interests, and serve them outrageously.
  3. Pay attention to their communication preferences. A donor tells you not to come to her home or office. Do not go to her home or office. A donor tells you he prefers email or phone communication. You pay close attention to his request. I have told the story of the MGO who wanted to come to my office to visit me. I told her just to stick with email and NOT come to my office. She came anyway, and she lost the relationship with me. Had she stuck to the email, she would have won me over and I would have invited her to my office. But no, she had to do it her And she lost out.
  4. Honor your donor’s intent. When your donor tells you her donation intent, you steward that intention with great care.
  5. You listen and are kind. Listening well is a sign of respect. I know it is hard to listen sometimes. I get it. But you can decide in advance to listen well. It is a wonderful gift to your donor. Then be kind, no matter what happens. If the donor is upset, listen and be kind. If the donor says something you don’t like, listen and be kind. There is always another time to react. And if you wait, you will react in the right way.
  6. Be patient and pay attention to their timing. You have a goal; it is time sensitive, and you must reach it. This is all a setup for impatience with your donor. It is a precursor to being pushy and demanding, and it is the worst thing you can do. Instead, go with the donor’s timing. Listen and respect what they need to do WHEN they need to do it.

These are just a few ways you can show respect to your donor. I am sure there are more. Let us know if you have any to share.
Jeff and I know that showing respect, especially to difficult donors, will not always be easy. But if before every donor encounter you set an intention to respect him or her, you will find that you will feel better about what you have done, and the donor’s relationship with you will become closer.