It is said that
some fundraising professionals in the nonprofit world – and even
some in profit-making industries (e.g., investments) and
even those that gravitate to political spheres -- share
characteristics that resemble qualities we find in both the animal
and plant kingdoms. It is unlikely this is a thought that crosses
most minds. But it does mine every so often. There are some
veritable lessons one can learn from both the animal and plant
For instance, the
Venus Flytrap is perhaps best known for its carnivorous eating
habits. The end of each leaf has two hinged lobes that make up the
trap. The inner surface of the lobes has hair like and very
sensitive projections that snap shut when prey come into contact
with them. Usually, insects that are caught by the flytrap are
digested and serve as nutrients for the environment.
What you may not
be aware about the Venus Flytrap is this. It
is said to promote anti-inflammatory conditions in the human body
when consumed regularly. The Venus Flytrap is rich in antioxidants
and has traditionally been used for strengthening the immune
system. The entire fresh plant is used medicinally. Bet you didn’t
a comparison to fundraisers can carry a negative connotation, the
benefits of the Venus Flytrap cannot be underestimated.
Antioxidants are good for the physical body and so too are
professionals who raise essential funds for the nonprofit who act
in much the same way. They are the medicine required to boost the
immune system of the nonprofit. And by so doing they
strengthen services that are needed for the most vulnerable in
society. Let’s give credit where credit is due.
brings his or her own talents and skills to the table, but not all
are principled in their approach and are sometimes comparable to
the negative qualities of the Venus Flytrap. Here is one case of a
fundraiser that I knew who fell into the latter
We were preparing
for a major campaign. Every professional I worked with generally
had his or her own portfolio of donors with whom they stayed in
touch. This is necessary for various reasons including maintaining
continuity with contributors, keeping a manageable number of
individuals to solicit, handling donor personality quirks and
preserving enhanced interpersonal relationships.
on the team was eminently successful. But, (yes, there is a “but”),
he also projected an aggressive personality. So, like the Venus
Flytrap that brings essential nutrients to the environment, his
successful engagements with philanthropists really were
indispensable. However, on occasion his approach was very forceful
and some felt trapped into a gift. Gift giving is, of course,
voluntary but now and then it takes time for a commitment to settle
in. In one case a major gift could have been paid over time – two
or three years. Yet, the benefactors felt they were coerced into
making an immediate payment. This left a sour taste in the mouths
of our friends.
Next, on to the
In 1998, Robert
Redford directed and starred in The Horse
Western drama film. It’s the story of a cowboy with an
almost magical ability to calm unruly horses. What is clear in the
movie is that with the right communication approach horses have an
uncanny sense of listening. In fact, one can teach horses to
respond to certain words in addition to gestures, mannerisms and
physical touching. It works both ways
– with humans and horses.
In a wonderful
website skillsyouneed.com, listening is listed as the communication
skill you especially need to master. It continues, “Listening is
the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the
communication process. Listening is key to all effective
communication. Without the ability to listen effectively, messages
are easily misunderstood. ... Effective listening is a skill that
underpins all positive human relationships.”
So, you ask, what
do horses have in common with raising funds?
One of the most
effective fundraisers I knew was a man of few words. His greatest
claim to fame was his ability to listen to the people he went to
see. He would present his case in a brief, deliberative manner
which his donors understood to be well thought through and
purposeful. And sometimes implicit in the fewer words spoken was a
sizeable and rich language explaining the need for a project or
program. After presenting he would sit back and just listen to the
philanthropist, answer questions and be silent. It was impactful
and efficacious. Like a trained horse, his listening for the right
cues is what proved most effective.
the best-selling author of The Man Who Listens to Horses
said: “Horses are our silent
partners. When we learn their language. This partnership grows
Or as the famous Mr. Ed would croon:
horse is a horse of course of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course.
That is of course unless the horse
Is the famous Mister Ed!”
So, my question is: what qualities of the plant or animal kingdoms
do you possess?
Norman B. Gildin is the author of the recently released book on
nonprofit fundraising “Learn From My Experiences.” He is the
President of Strategic Fundraising Group whose singular mission is
to assist nonprofits raise critical funds for their organization.
His website is at www.normangildin.com.