boysOne of the things that I’ve appreciated about Richard over the years, when he talks to fundraisers, is that he’s always stressing to you the importance of “staying close to the need.”
I can say, without any hyperbole, that when Richard is speaking at a conference or when he’s talking one-on-one with a fundraiser, he gets choked up when he’s trying to get fundraisers to understand why they need to feel the need deep down into their hearts and souls.
And even though we’ve been speaking together or recording a video or a podcast for a long time, whenever he gets emotional about something, I do too. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve become blubbering messes together when we articulate some kind of pain in the world.
It’s hard enough for you to stay close to the need in “normal times.” And now that you’re working full time at home, it can be even tougher. Your work as a mid, major or planned giving officer is tough; it’s hard and demanding. Add to it that you have a pandemic, and all that goes with that in your personal life – it could be easy to get caught up in all that and forget what the need really is that your organization is addressing.
This is a reminder not to forget.
The importance of understanding, feeling and being able to articulate the need your organization is addressing to a donor is immense. Donors are inspired to give out of emotion. Yet your tendency may be toward finding the facts, the numbers, the logic of all your organization does, rather than helping your donor understand why the need exists, what happens when the need isn’t addressed, and what could happen if the donor were able to do something about it.
Richard and I urge you not to lose your way on this and forget to get close to the need.
It can be painful at times. It can be easy to think, “don’t go there.” Especially in a time like this when we’re all suffering in some way. You could be saying to yourself, “how can I get in touch with the need that my organization is addressing, when there is need everywhere?”
The answer is that, as a fundraiser who relates to donors in a personal one-to-one way, it’s your job. There’s no other way to say it. Your work as a major gift fundraiser is to convey the need in a real, emotional way that will touch the hearts of your donors. (Tweet it!)
The only way to do that is for you to get close to it personally. That will mean actually placing yourself in it. Here’s an example for you:
The other day, I was talking to Anne (not her real name), a director of development for a performing arts organization. She was struggling to figure out how to talk about her organization going dark and how they still needed support, when she got a call from one of her donors.
The donor was in tears because she could no longer attend the performances. She told Anne how much those performances fed her soul and spirit, and how she felt lost without the ability to be with others. The donor, on her own, said she was committing to give a seven-figure gift each year over the next 3 years, to ensure the company would still be performing into the future.
Ironically for Anne, it was the donor who helped her get close to the need that day. The experience reminded her yet again why her organization was so important.
You may be sitting at your home office – or a kitchen table or some small closet you finagled into an office – and perhaps you’ve gotten a little far away from the need.
Get back there. Get in touch again. Do what you need to do to feel it again. Your donors will be inspired by you when you have it in your own heart.