Acoustic Fundraisers – Five Tips to Great Field Research

12/01/2012 at 09:50 Leave a comment


Krista Tippet and her radio program On Being always inspires me. Her program On Whale Songs and Elephant Loves with Katy Payne, Acoustic Biologist and founder of the Elephant Listening Project made me think about how fundraisers learn about prospects and donors. Katy discovered how whales and later elephants communicate. As I walked the dog and listened, I thought about how we fundraisers are acoustic biologists.

Well maybe not acoustic biologists, but we have to be good listeners, watch for signals and observe everything. So maybe a better term might be philanthropic sociologists.  If we are really good at what we do – our prospects and donors don’t know we are studying them – just like the whales and elephants (who never forget)!

Tony Elischer has a great line, “You have two ears, two eyes and one mouth. Use them in proportion when meeting with a donor.” He is so right. A good scientist spends more time observing, listening and studying than talking about their work. When the prospect or donor does most of the talking – we learn so much!

Five tips to great listening:

  1. Ask/Learn about their interests, work, family, travel – before and during the meeting.
  2. Have questions in your mind that engage. Questions don’t have to be about your organization or giving. Use the room, weather, time of year to start the conversation. Think about what you want to learn.
  3. Observe the surroundings for photos, interests, art and ask about them.
  4. How and what questions are more engaging than asking why.
  5. Make eye contact. Avoid PowerPoint and lots of paperwork or materials.

Everyone has their own style. And that is key to engaging people – finding your style, morphing to fit the situation and learning about the other person. Your sincerity will come through.

Entry filed under: Fundraising, Nonprofit fundraising. Tags: , , , , , .

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