Fundraisers, Students in Human Behavior

By Daniel Doucette

In my 20s, I made a colleague cry. That was some 30 years ago. At that time I was in finance and she was in development. I held fast to accounting requirements and she insisted on satisfying a donor’s request. Since then, I’ve witnessed time and again the balancing act that fund raising professionals perform.

Fund raising professionals are uniquely suited to step into difficult conversations because of our appreciation for human behavior and our desire to find common purpose. Allow me to explain why.

Success as a fundraising professional depends on openness to the nuances of human behavior, an ability to connect with diverse individuals, and skills in forging common cause. The nature of human dynamics may vary between lunch with a major donor, negotiations with a foundation program officer, and a budgeting meeting with finance colleagues. Yet in all cases you need to know what makes people tick, how to engage them, and how to achieve buy-in.

Be a student of human behavior. Commit yourself to knowing those with whom you work with as much energy as you bring to shaping a funding proposal or preparing for a meeting with a donor. Consider these “new takes” on engaging your work colleagues:

Look at the methodology you use for engaging with donors, and use that model to devise your approach for engaging with colleagues when you have key conversations. No kidding.

Approach important internal interactions as a fresh opportunity to build mutual professional trust, openly exchanging information and perspectives as you seek common ground. It’s not a battle.

Evaluate your intentions in advance of an important conversation. You have surface goals yes, but you have deeper intentions affecting your behaviors. Be honest with yourself about those true intentions and be empathetic with your colleagues who bring theirs to the table as well. It’s only human.

Back in the ’90’s I was making an impression as the “by-the-book” finance guy. My development colleague was intent on getting her own way. One of us could have shifted the discussion toward common purpose. Be that person.

Daniel Doucette is a longtime friend and colleague of LAPA and he specializes in Organizational Dynamics Advisor and Leadership Coach. You may learn about his work at www.BraveShift.com.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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