Listening for the gift

Most people think of fundraising as all about the ask. But truth be told, the best gifts come because a fundraiser listened. Don’t get me wrong. Asking is important. In fact, the majority of small to mid-size ministries have not because the fundraising team doesn’t ask as much as they should.

However, after observing a role-playing session where the “solicitor” wouldn’t shut up, it occurred to me that we are training toward the wrong skill. It’s easy enough to rattle off a pre-packaged fundraising spiel. The bigger challenge is to listen for and truly hear what’s on the other’s heart.

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Most of us have the talking thing down pat. But when it comes to listening, not so much.


I’ve heard folks use the acronym, RASA – receive, appreciate, summarize, and ask questions — as a hearing aid. Other champions of good listening suggest a talking-to-listening ratio of 25 percent out and 75 percent in. And then there’s the old saying: “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Use them in proportion.”

As Thom Jeavons and I wrote in Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry:

Fundraisers working in faith-based settings should look [and listen] beyond the organization’s needs and goals to the blessings donors will experience from their generosity – to the life-enriching relationship with God that can be deepened through the practice of giving.

To be sure, the gift you seek will benefit the organization you represent, but the even greater benefit is what it will mean for the donor. Borrowing from the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 4:17, our desire must be “what may be credited to the giver’s account.”

So, the next time you sit down with a friend of the ministry, hold your tongue for a bit. And not just as a fundraising strategy, but because you truly care about what the individual has to say.

I guarantee you’ll be blessed by what you hear as you listen well.

For more on putting donors’ hearts first, see:

Appreciating philanthropists as they appreciate you

Reflections from a generous giver

Three reasons for focusing on givers’ hearts


  1. Rebekah, this post reminded me why many professors don’t make good fund raisers, good faculty developers, good coaches or mentors, and definitely not good administrators. They have been taught to profess and love to do it. They may profess well, but when they are professing, they find it difficult to listen.

    • Sad, but true, By. That sage in the classroom is accustomed to having the stage all to him/herself. Lecturing doesn’t work in fundraising, no matter how wise the one doing the lecturing.

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