I have a friend who likes to jokingly say to me, “Richard, do you believe what you believe?”  And I laugh and respond that I do.  But then, as I ponder it a bit more, I wonder if I really do believe everything I believe.  I think I believe some things, but when placed in the light of day, some of those beliefs are either outdated or just plain wrong.
For instance, years ago I used to believe homeless people were basically lazy, and that belief caused me to regard them with disdain and impatience.  Then I started working with rescue missions and The Salvation Army and found that, of course, that is not at all true.  And it changed me.
For many years I believed that I just needed to get over the hurt and pain from my childhood and get on with the program of life. Then I got in touch with that hurt and pain through some very effective counseling.  As I grew to learn more about myself surrounding this subject, I became a more compassionate and understanding person.
Last night, as I was walking back to my hotel from dinner, I encountered a couple with a small boy who was crying loudly.  The boy was obviously distraught about something.  Approaching them a bit closer, I heard his dad say to him, “Remember, I’ve told you many times, Johnny, boys don’t cry.  Do you hear me?  Boys don’t cry!”  Hmmmm.  Now, there’s a belief!
There are a number of other beliefs I have had that are just too embarrassing to share, but as I have opened myself up to the truth about those beliefs, I have changed.
All of this started me thinking about the beliefs we all have about donors and how those beliefs govern our daily actions toward them.
What private negative beliefs about donors do you have?  Might some of them be on this list?

  • People with a lot of money are arrogant and demanding.
  • Most donors just want to give so they can get attention.
  • Many donors worry too much about the details, like every detail on how the money is spent.
  • Donors really don’t have a specific interest.  They just give for tax or publicity reasons, or because it makes them feel good.
  • Donors really don’t understand how a non-profit works.
  • Donors want to be involved in way too much and don’t realize that we are the experts on how to deal with the cause we are both interested in.  They should just give their money and leave the rest to us.
  • Donors really don’t need to be thanked quickly.  They know we are busy with more important things.
  • Donors don’t understand how busy we are, how short staffed, etc., so we can’t just turn on a dime and respond to their questions and concerns quickly.

What have I missed and neglected to put on this list that represents a belief you might have?  As you can see, I have purposely left off the positive beliefs.  Why?  Because, primarily, I would like you to look at the negative beliefs you have, and then deal with them.  If you deal with your negative beliefs about donors, you will be a better MGO.
Try this exercise:  Make a list right now of the all the beliefs you have about donors.  Go ahead and include both the positive and the negative ones. Write everything down.  Don’t worry, no one will see the list, so you can be honest.
Then, next to each belief, write down the actions that spring from that belief.  For instance, you may write, “Donors are too demanding.”  The actions coming from that belief may be impatience in dealing with their requests, a lack of thoroughness in your response to their questions, or delaying a response because you don’t feel like dealing with it.
Or you may believe that donors are really just interested in the general cause of the organization and do not have a specific interest.  As a result of this belief, your action may be to limit your search for a specific interest and passion, or perhaps to simply mail out some general material.
Or you may believe that a donor really has nothing to add to the way your organization operates, either in its management or the technical help you give.  The resulting action from this may be to disregard your donor’s desire to be involved.   You could completely ignore his or her input.
Just yesterday I had a conversation with a good friend from a large mid-western non-profit who told me that her CEO had asked a number of very competent board members and business advisors to be involved in a critical decision for the organization.  She got the advice and it was unanimous.  But the CEO promptly ignored the consensus of the group and did what she wanted to do.  Do you think she believes that outsiders really don’t know how her non-profit works – that she knows better – that they really have nothing to add to her management decisions?  Of course she does!! It’s very sad.
Your beliefs about donors, whether in general or those on your own caseload, will drive how you treat them.  Get in touch with this reality and take steps to address the negative beliefs you have.  It will make you a better person and a more successful MGO.