No doubt, people have had trouble listening for thousands of years. Sure, while modern technology makes it easy to multi-task (and thereby decrease focus on the primary task at hand), I have a feeling the cave people were as easily distracted by a future hunt as you are by your wondering what you will make for dinner tonight or what emails came in since you started reading this. With the historical as well as current struggle in mind, here are three core elements to effective listening and how it can improve fundraising:
- Hear what the person is saying
- Stay Focused
- Help the Donor
1 – Hear What The Person Is Saying.
- Put aside your own agenda, your pre-conceived notions about the person, your assumptions about how they will respond and your own personal biases.
- Watch for nonverbal clues about what the person is truly saying.
- Ask questions to clarify and ensure an accurate translation.
- Confirm what you are hearing by briefly summarizing what you heard
2 – Stay Focused. Easier said than done. It means that when you walk into a meeting you are only thinking about this particular conversation and the person in front of you. Here are a few tips:
- Release all of your other thoughts.
- Jot down any notes about subjects that are distracting so you won’t worry about losing your train of thought or re-gaining your thread of the conversation later.
- Don’t let yourself daydream. The update will come in or it won’t.
- Remember that if you can’t focus on raising money, the donor has no incentive to stay focused on donating money.
3 – Help the Donor. This does not mean putting words or ideas into the person’s mouth. Instead:
- Avoid distracting comments.
- Do not interrupt.
- Do not change the subject unless you intend to for a reason.
- Do not finish a donor’s sentence.
- Avoid distracting actions.
- Do not fidget.
- Do not slump.
- Do not nod after each sentence.
- Offer words of advice or help only when the donor is interrupted by another source or has lost their train of thought.
- Maintain eye contact.
This list of suggestions is can be helpful in many aspects of our life (in addition to how it can improve fundraising.) Try using this as a guide before a family dinner and see if it changes the conversation.
Listening is something that we all think we know how to do but few of us truly do well. Succeed and you will see the rewards.
** This article was originally published in September 2010 and updated and republished in March 2017.