by: David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions
My hunch is that we have all experienced the not-so-appealing call from an aggressive telemarketer. You know the type, right? When, no matter how considerate and polite you may be trying to ask a question or telling them you’re not interested, they just keep going with their all-important-pitch, seemingly having mastered the art of talking without breathing. They create an atmosphere where, even if you might be interested, you are so put-off by their assertiveness that you can’t wait for the call to end.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
–Stephen R. Covey
Or maybe you have kids and you’ve experienced the “Yeah, but…” conversation. Sometimes in our house, when our son REALLY wants something, we quickly get to a place where he can’t hear what we’re saying because he’s too busy making his case. He has an agenda and, in the moment, he’s solely focused on what he wants and needs.
In both of those scenarios, I have been known to utter the phrase, “Stop Talking… Start listening.”
And unfortunately, on more than one occasion during a donor call, I have been guilty of, or witness to, the exact same inappropriate behavior.
It is especially tempting to fall into this trap on a big ask. You’ve spent days, weeks, maybe even months preparing for the call and you and your team have data points and case studies to share that will all reinforce why your organization is worthy of support. Or think about when you are preparing for a donor cultivation meeting or one with a new board member. Our conversation plan is all-too-often focused on what WE do, how great WE are and how much WE need. The built in deficit with this strategy is that we are not focused on finding out what is most important to our donor/volunteer.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
–Bryant H. McGill
Successful cultivation, solicitation and stewardship calls all have one key ingredient in common… they are designed to give us a chance to learn more about the donor; THEIR desires, THEIR concerns, THEIR needs. And the only way we can accomplish that is to ask open ended questions and to come into the conversation with a desire to really listen and learn. When we do this – not only will the odds of receiving the support we need increase – but by respecting THEIR agenda, we are, ultimately, building and strengthening a lasting relationship with the partners who will help to advance our mission.
David Gee is a seasoned development professional with particular expertise in capital campaigns, major gifts and donor stewardship. David joined the HUB Philanthropic Solutions team after serving as The Chicago Bar Foundation’s Director of Development. Prior to that, he spent 18 years working as a professional actor in Chicago. Among his volunteer activities, David serves on the Donors Forum’s Resource Development Committee, the Development Committee for All Chicago and as the Local School Council Chair at Beaubien Elementary School.