I love the approach of spring here in the UK. The arrival of daffodils and tulips and of course the increasing bird song. If you stop and listen you can even hear spring coming.
Over recent weeks I’ve been reminded of one of the most valuable tools for a fundraiser. That is simply to listen. It works on so many levels.
Firstly with your peers. Despite a few years under my belt as a fundraiser I find I am always learning. Fundraising is constantly changing (which is why it is so challenging and interesting). I find the best way to learn is find who is doing something really well and listen to what they have to say. Pick your topic : crowd funding, mobile giving, major giving … These are just some areas where I have learned some really useful insights from listening to what fellow fundraisers have to say already this year.
I find it doesn’t just give me their ideas. It also helps me springboard and make my own insights by connecting my experience with this new knowledge. I like to think I can then take it further and who knows in time maybe I can return the favour and they will listen to me.
Listen to your donors
It works with speaking to donors and prospects too. When you meet them it can be tempting to tell them all about your cause. They have interesting stories to tell too. I find it fascinating what prompts people to support a cause. They can often give you extraordinary insights into your own strategy for engaging more supporters like them. Listen to what they say. Some years ago I ended up talking to a farmer at an agricultural show when working as a fundraiser for FARM-Africa. We talked about the state of farming (or rather he did). It wasn’t good. “Worst time I can ever remember in my family’s history“, he said. So I asked “I don’t suppose this is a good time for charities like FARM-Africa to ask for support?”. His reply changed my strategic thinking in an instant. Up until then I’d been cautious about targeting farmers for donations. “Well if you don’t ask me for money I definitely won’t give” was his reply. So we started asking (and yes they gave).
Listen to the world out there
I am also finding listening is becoming increasingly important as part of today’s fundraising strategy to engage support online.
My current ‘must read’ book on my way into work is The Network Nonprofit (book review to follow). These are the little gems that jumped out at me :
“The key ingredient for building any relationship is good listening. Rather than just talking to, or worse, at people online, organisations first should listen to what people are talking about, what interests or concerns them, and how they view the organisation… Paying attention to what people are saying is beneficial because it makes it easier for your organisation to be relevant”.
And if you can be relevant to someone when you start talking to them you can connect.
It’s common sense. Check out this blog from 2009 by Mike Arauz who concludes “Every good conversation starts with good listening“.
So if we want to build relationships we need to listen more. Who is saying interesting things about areas and issues your cause is also passionate about? How much time are you spending listening vs broadcasting?
Think how engaging it is when someone says to you, “I was really interested in what you had to say”. That’s often the start of a conversation and it’s all part of building your network and strengthening relationships – the DNA building blocks of fundraising.
So my top fundraising tip is simply to listen – we have two ears and one mouth and we should try to use them in that proportion – you might be pleasantly surprised at what you hear.