Anticipating donor needs and wants before they are voiced is one of the best ways to form bonds with major gift prospects who don’t necessarily see themselves as being an important player in the impact of your organization.
In other words, hearing the unheard. Would you agree that this is a skill that everyone, not just leaders who work in a nonprofit fundraising environment, need to develop?
I have recently had occasion to re-visit the book 11 Rings, written by former Chicago Bulls head coach, Phil Jackson. In it, Jackson points out that being a successful basketball coach is very much like being a successful leader – you need to have a finely tuned sense of where you are and what’s happening around you at any given time.
He cites the example of a young prince who was sent by his father to study with a master how to become a good ruler. The young prince’s first assignment was to spend a year in the forest alone. When the prince returned home, the father asked what he had learned. The young prince mentioned hearing birds sing, leaves rustle, crickets chirp, bees buzzing, and the whispering and hollering of the wind.
The master then told him to return to the forest to listen for more things. The prince did so. One morning, several days later, he heard faint sounds he’d never heard before. Returning home, he told the master, “I could hear the unheard when I listened more closely-the sound of flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew.
The master smiled as he said, “To hear the unheard is a necessary discipline to be a good ruler. For only when a ruler has learned to listen closely to the hearts of people, hearing their feelings, pains expressed, and complaints unspoken, can he hope to inspire confidence in the people, understand when something is wrong, and meet the true needs of his citizens.”
Yes, listening and observing are very important skills. This kind of awareness is developed over time, but once you’ve mastered it, as Coach Jackson points out, the invisible becomes visible and the game of basketball (and I suspect your ability to connect with your donors) unfolds like a story before your eyes.
What’s your opinion? Is this possible in today’s rush rush environment?