Become A Better Listener by Maintaining Your Curiosity

Want to become a better listener? We found some sage advice in this article from Andrew Olsen (spotted on LinkedIn) that listening is in fact one of the most important skills that fund raisers must develop. We’d argue that fund raisers need to first maintain a genuine curiosity about people and what their interests are to become good listeners.  We call this process: maintaining the donor perspective. Be curious my friends. . . be very curious.

Uncovering Philanthropic Passion

by Andrew OlsenCFRE

Uncovering philanthropic passion sounds like a big job, doesn’t it?
It isn’t, really—as long as you are a good listener, enjoy spending time with people and know how to build authentic relationships.

Uncovering someone’s philanthropic passion is simple. You ask key questions, then shut up and listen. I mean really listen. Don’t spend the time between questions thinking about the next thing you’re going to ask or how you want to respond. Be taking in every bit of info the prospect is sharing with you. This is how you build authentic, trust-filled relationships.

She says, “I’m really interested in children.” You could respond by saying, “Great! We serve kids too! Let me tell you all about our great kids programs, blah, blah, blah.” She’d listen. She’ll probably entertain a proposal. And who knows, you might even get a gift from her at some point. But it won’t be significant—a transformational gift.

Why? Because you don’t really know her at this point. You don’t know why she’s passionate about kids, or which kids she is interested in investing in.
Instead of jumping in as soon as you hear a potential connection, wait. Ask more-detailed questions. This could look something like:

“Kids, huh? Hmm. What in particular excites you about helping children? When you think about helping children, what specific groups or types of children do you envision helping? Why? Tell me more about that.”

Then she tells you, “When I was 15 I was kicked out of my home and forced to live with friends. I worked my way through high school, got scholarships for college, and held a job all four years to make it through college, too. There are thousands of girls in situations like I was in, who find themselves on the streets, victimized, taken advantage of, and not able to realize their dreams. I want to give girls like these the chance to dream again, and to achieve great things.”

There. She’s told you what her passion is. Heck. She’s nearly written the case for you!

Marrying passion to program

People ask all the time, “What field are you in?” I’m often tempted to tell them I’m a fundraiser, or that I work in development or philanthropy.

But let’s be real. When it comes down to it, we’re all matchmakers.

We take compassionate, caring people and match them up with worthy, successful programs to create philanthropic partnerships that help improve our communities all over the world.

Now when I’m asked, I think I’ll just say that I’m a philanthropic matchmaker.

In all seriousness, if you’re a good gift officer you’ll thrive on uncovering people’s philanthropic interests and pairing them with exciting, engaging projects and programs that your nonprofit offers. And your donors will love the fact that they’re investing in custom-built projects you’ve designed just for them.



Andrew Olsen is a featured contributor at Alltop and Christian Leadership Alliance and has presented at numerous industry conferences including National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, Catholic Charities USA, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and the Center for Nonprofit Success.