Another fascinating experience and conversation came out of my attending the United Jewish Communities’ General Assembly a few weeks ago. And no, I am not talking about an evening at the Grand Old Opry, though I must admit, that was fascinating too.
My colleague, Esther, and I were suppose to meet very briefly with the Executive Director of one of the largest private foundations in the United States. The meeting was merely to be a quick hello to say that I was looking forward to meeting with him and his colleague the following week, when we had scheduled a meeting at his office.
Although we had spoken on the phone and emailed, we had never met. And since I knew he was at the conference, I wanted to put a face to the voice and say a quick hello. The problem was that I really did not know what he looked like. I had a quick glimpse of him that morning as a friend pointed him out as he walked by, rather quickly and in the opposite direction.
So Esther and I were were trying to find him in a room with about 2000 people. No kidding. I grabbed another colleague who I had just touched base with earlier in the day for the first time in 4 years. He too had left the organized Jewish community and was now consulting.
“Clive, have you seen Michael Murphy?” (ok, you have already figured out that is not the man’s real name, but for purposes of this post I need to keep it confidential). Clive immediately looked at me and said, “You’re going to introduce me to Michael Murphy?” So much for Clive’s help. I told him that I would be pleased to do so, assuming I could find the guy.
A half hour later, Esther and I were standing talking to Mr. Murphy. As Clive walked by, not noticing me, I grabbed his arm and told him we needed to talk. Murphy was talking to Esther and I told Clive that we needed to pretend we were talking about something important so that I could then turn back to Murphy and introduce Clive. I set it up so that it would have been rude for me not to introduce them.
After we finished our short meeting, Clive came back to talk to Esther and me. He couldn’t believe what I did. He noted that there are few in the field who would have done what I did. He was so appreciative and reiterated that he was looking forward to sending me clients when he got back to Israel. It surprised me that something that seemed so natural to me was seen as out of the ordinary.
Why would any fundraiser think that they might get less of a gift for their own causes by introducing a philanthropist to another fundraiser? Are they so insecure in the value they are bringing to the donor?
Earlier that morning I sat in meeting where Harold Grinspoon asked a woman to stand up next to him and tell the room full of people how she solicited him for a gift of $1 million to start a Jewish high school in Hartford. After she told the story, he turned to her and thanked her for asking him for that gift. Did you get that?… HE thanked HER!
As fundraisers we don’t own our donors. In fact, if we are doing our jobs well, we are serving our donors. Too many fundraisers think they are working for their employers, the charities for whom they are raising funds. And in truth they are. Only the top fundraisers know that they are working for their donors too.
When we do our jobs well, the donor makes a gift to us, and then says thank you for introducing me to this charitable cause.Â And in that context, you will never go wrong by sharing your contacts and sharing the wealth. After all, that’s just what our donors are doing for us, isn’t it?