listen 2015-Jan25
I’m amazed what donors will tell you. But too often, MGOs and non-profits seem to have trouble listening to what they are saying.
I have to admit; I’m personally not a great listener. People that know me well will tell you that. It’s something I’m always working on. It’s one big thing I know I need to change – it honors the person talking to me, and it gives me a piece of experience to advise you from.
So I want you to know that I’m coming from a place of compassion and empathy when I implore you to really take the time to listen to your donor. Here is an example of why this is so important:
One of the MGOs I work with has been doing a great job of cultivating and stewarding her donors. In particular, one of those donors (who had previously given a highest gift of $2,000) called her to say she wanted to make a $100,000 gift – and she wanted to come directly to the office and hand her the check.
Incredible, right?
This is how a $2,000 gift turned into a $100,000 gift: The donor came by the office and handed over the check. She then told the MGO that the reason she decided to give the check to her this year was that last year she gave the same amount to her favorite University and they didn’t listen to her. She went on to say that they asked her how she would like the $100,000 to be designated. She said she would like the gardens to be kept up with that gift.
They didn’t do it. And they never got back to her once. She then told the MGO she had just handed the check to, “You always seem to hear what I’m saying. You always get back to me, you always make me feel like what I’m telling you is important. You look me in the eye, you are with me. This is why I wanted your organization to get my $100,000 this year.”
That was an incredible moment for the MGO. To have a donor tell her how honored she felt that she had listened to her. The donor said two things (besides that she listens to her) that the MGO heard and picked up on. Did you catch it?

  1. The donor’s university didn’t listen to her.
  2. The donor said, “This is why I wanted your organization to get my $100,000 gift this year.”

You can be assured that this MGO is going to tell her exactly how her gift was used this year and steward that gift like there is no tomorrow. Why? Because she knows that if she does, there is another $100,000 gift coming next year… and possibly more. This good donor makes it a practice to give a $100,000 gift every December. A great MGO listens not only to what her donors say, but listens for clues and nuances that tell you more about the donor than they may tell you concretely.
Here is the final point I want you to hear. Major donors are just regular people. Just like your child or spouse or partner wants to be heard, so does your donor. Can you say with certainty that all of your donors could look you in the eye and say, “you listen to me, you are with me when I talk with you?”
Think about that. That is exactly how you want your donors to think about you – as someone that listens to them. Isn’t that what you want from others too? Of course you do. So, along with me, keep working at it. It will get easier every day.
PS – Building relationships in this way is what our new book is all about. Get It’s Not JUST About the Money today!