An MGO is sitting in her office wondering how she is going to get to know everyone on her caseload. A development director is trying to figure out how best to communicate new departmental procedures to his staff. A CEO is putting together a complicated slide presentation to convey her vision to the board and staff. Another MGO is trying to figure out the best way to ask a donor across the country for a million-dollar gift. A VP of Development is trying to figure out how to get the “program people” to understand the importance of fundraising.
These scenarios are happening every day at a nonprofit near you. Unfortunately, the way these individuals are handling the above situations is not the best. Most of the time these folks are sending emails, letters, phone calls and using video conferencing to convey their message. Anything but actually sitting down in front of another human being and talking.
To be honest, I think all of us have lost the art of face-to-face communication – there is amazing power when we can look one another in the eye.
Instead, we’d rather shoot off an email or a text. Sometimes we’ll pick up the phone and talk with someone, or even conference everyone in. But if you are like me, listening to someone on a speakerphone in a conference room makes me lose interest, and my mind starts to wander.
Researchers tell us that 93% of communication is non-verbal. It’s no wonder that I have several emails a month that either get taken wrong, or I interpret them the wrong way. I’m telling you, I have hours of stories about how someone has taken an email from me all wrong and the havoc that ensued. Not good.
Richard and I have had several such situations as we work with our clients – if the two parties had just sat together or shared a meal, they could have avoided a terrible miscommunication or solved a problem. Instead there were pages and pages of emails going back and forth, and it ended up turning out poorly.
I recall a time early on in my career working as a development director when the CEO wrote this long email to the entire staff explaining a new vision for the organization. It had the entire staff in an uproar. Misinterpretations, people’s feelings hurt – it was a complete disaster.
Get in front of people and talk! Let them see your facial expressions and body language.
In major gifts, Richard and I are often perplexed about why some managers are so worried about letting their MGOs get out and talk to donors. It’s like they have to promise to give up their first-born child and agree to sign over their life insurance in order to get permission to fly and visit a donor. This often happens when an MGO is trying to get to know a donor and there will be no ask. “I’m not letting you go unless you can ask the donor for at least $20,000!” quips the manager.
This is so frustrating.
Donors need to feel they can trust you and the organization. That cannot happen unless they see you, know who you are, can look you in the eye and know you are being authentic… which is what major gift fundraising is all about.
I know the easy thing when communicating to donors or colleagues is to write a quick email. But stop yourself. Walk over to that program person’s desk and have a conversation. Stand up in front of your staff and look them in the eye. Buy yourself a plane ticket and go see that donor that you don’t know.
It will be so worth it. It’s amazing how much can get done, how understanding happens and how trust is built when one person can stand in front of the other and see and really hear that person.
Perhaps on the next “Throwback Thursday,” instead of posting an old photo of yourself on Facebook, you could walk, drive or fly to see someone face-to-face and have a meaningful conversation. Just like the old days.