Friday, February 12, 2016

An Exercise in Understanding

Sometimes in our daily lives we might clash with our co-workers and partners in the industry. I've had the good fortune to meet thousands of non-profit professionals. And I believe it is crucial we all give each other the benefit of the doubt when it comes to positive intentions, no matter how frustrating communication can seem at times. I think that we can go further. 

Rather than running away from those that befuddle us or that we don't understand, let's take a second glance and look beneath the surface. It takes courage to involve ourselves in a situation that might make us uncomfortable. But it helps. I am challenging you to tell others and to perform a simple exercise. I have used this in the past to diffuse many situations and I also use it to help successfully vet vendor partners I believe I want to work with. 

So block off some time on your calendar, invite them to tea or coffee and both of you answer these questions:
  • How did you get into fundraising?
  • What’s been your proudest moment so far?
  • Who do you look up to in the industry?
  • What’s something you’d like to learn about our profession?
  • What keeps you motivated?
  • What keeps you up at night?
You may find you have more in common than the person you're butting heads with. You may also find some answers that enlighten you. Or sometimes, just sometimes, you may not find the answers you were looking for. And that's ok. You learned something or confirmed an assumption you had, but at least now you know.We all know that sometimes the act of this exercise is more meaningful than the answers, but in all reality we can learn from one another. Knowing feels good, knowing helps you feel reassured that your gut was right. And if you don't receive the answers you expected, it's ok to be surprised. While one might think these are simple job interview questions, they strike at the heart of the matter for me. Why do we do what we do? Sometimes motivation and intent is everything, but we're far too wrapped up in the day to day experiences to realize that. I hope you'll take a moment for this exercise and enjoy it. One of the things I enjoy doing as well is doing this with someone I have a deep bond with, a mentor or person I can rely on and also do it with someone I may not understand and look for the commonalities and the differences in their answers.

I challenge you to start with yourself! How about you answer one of these questions in the comments below... I dare you!



  1. The thing that keeps me up at night is thinking of all the things that I need to get done. How there are not enough hours in the days. haha

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  3. I've been in fundraising since I found the add in the OSU student newspaper (in 1983) for annual fund callers. I've worked in gift accounting, the alumni association, the College of Ag's development office, and now Donor Relations at the OSU Foundation since that time. 33 years! Time flies when you're having fun and being incredibly productive!

  4. I have been an Administrative Assistant for a community college foundation for 8 years. My proudest moment was hearing a student remark that the scholarship was more than the dollars which came a crucial time. It was the experiences of meeting and working with a variety of people and learning to become a leader in the student organization that raised the funds for the scholarship.