Friday, February 26, 2016

What if?

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to build better relationships with the people I work with and the people I know in the field of prospect development.  I don’t always do a good job of this, but I try.

I have told my co-workers… Wait.  I don’t really like that term, I’m going to say, my “friends” instead. 

I tell my friends that my day is always richer when I get to engage with them on a personal level.  It can be as simple as a “good morning” and a short discussion about what someone did over the weekend or it can be about something they’re genuinely excited about that is happening in their lives.  Even a five minute conversation really makes my day better.

The point is to connect on a level that make us all feel more human.  We spend a lot of time at work, I’d like to know more about my friends than just what they’re responsible for doing at work.  I like to know why they do the work they do, how they got to this point in their lives and what gets them excited every day.  I even like knowing their dog or cat’s name, their favorite movie of all time or anything that allows me to know them better.

I like having a reason to connect with my friends about things other than work.  Maybe we share a passion for baseball. Maybe we like the same television show or who knows what.  The added benefit of all this that it also allows me to connect them with others.

I’m a huge fan of the song “What if” by John Ondrasik, also known as “Five for Fighting.”  The song has had a profound impact on me.  I want to try to see the world through other people’s eyes.  I try to put myself in their shoes whenever possible or appropriate.

That’s not always easy.  It takes time and effort, but it's so worth it.

The song “What if” starts out with “Threw a line out to pull you to me. If you don’t get it then you don’t get it.  You made up your mind before you knew me.  If you don’t get it then you don’t get it.”

I don’t always succeed – but I try to reach out to people to see if I can engage them.  I don't just do this at work, but even at the places where I eat or do business.  If they take the line, great.  If they don’t, they just don’t.

I learned this from my dad.  He always made it a point to know people.  Be it the person who delivered his mail or the guy filling his prescriptions at the drug store.  I think his life was richer because of the effort he put into it.

What kind of relationships do you have at work? I say "work" for the purposes of this blog because that's what this space is all about.

Let me ask you a direct question.

Are you the kind of prospect development professional who has adapted the “us vs. them” mentality when it comes to fundraisers?  I know you’re out there.  I’ve talked to you, I’ve heard your jokes, your rants, and your frustrations.

Whenever I’m at a conference or with other prospect development professionals and someone refers to fundraisers as being on the “dark side,” I cringe.   I hate that.  I hate any comment that is not complimentary about those on the front-line raising money.  I just do.

I love fundraisers.  All of them; major gift officers, annual giving officers, those working to establish corporate and community partnerships and even the students who are calling alumni to solicit them for donations.

I know not all of them are perfect.  Who is?  I know that some of them won’t call the prospects you’ve identified for them and how frustrating that can be.  I get it.  I do my best to help those who won’t help themselves, but those that do truly get it – I embrace.

I want to do everything I can to help them be successful. I’m driven to help them be successful. 

Look, I work at an organization where 100% of the revenue comes from fundraising.  Imagine what that pie chart looks like.  It’s sobering.  Even if I didn’t work where that was the case, I know that fundraising is critical to any non-profit’s life. 

You better believe I want to do everything and anything I can to help them be successful.

I know there are things they like to do and things they don’t.  Same goes for us.   That’s right – it applies to those of us in prospect development as well.

Like what?

Let me ask you – when you get a request for a phone number from one of your fundraisers, how do you react?

Hey! Did you just roll your eyes?

I know that sometimes they can look it up themselves. That’s not the point.  How do you react? Do you tell yourself, that’s beneath me or I have better more important things to do?  I know full well that some of you do and say this all the time.  Hey, I might have been guilty of this at one time or another too.

Not anymore.

I want my fundraiser calling prospects.  I love it when they make the effort to reach out to new people.  Cold calling or any kind of calling is hard.  If they want to call someone and they need a phone number, I’m going to give it to them as soon as I can and I’m going to be happy to do it. 

Why?  It’s not about me.

Remember that song I mentioned above?

“What if I had your heart? What if you wore my scars?  How would we break down? What if you were me? What if I were you?”

Remember, it’s all about relationships.  Fundraisers shouldn’t be the only one that spend time building relationships.  We should be doing it too. 

Take time to get out from behind your monitor and go talk to someone.  Make a friend.  Be a friend.  Do the things that friends should do for one another (even looking up phone numbers).

I know you’re busy.  I know you have deadlines. You might even by shy.  Do it anyway.  Don’t make it about you. Make it about doing what’s best for the organization you serve.

You can start small.  Don’t pass someone’s office or cubicle or walk past them in the hall without saying “Hello.”  Instead of emailing someone, take the time to go talk to them in person once in a while.  You can build from there.  I know you can do this.

“To the ones who make it better.  Vying to get out, got to touch the other side. What if all that it took to save our lives together was to rise up?”

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