October 20, 2008

In our book Keep Your Donors, Tom Ahern and I write about the importance of “why.”

Children are naturally curious. You remember: They ask a question. You give an answer and what do the kids do? They ask “why” again.
But research shows that by the early teens, we’ve purged kids of “why.” And we keep reinforcing the message.
Just watch a board meeting. Asking questions are often discouraged. Somehow, asking questions suggests a lack of politesse. Or asking too many questions suggests disloyalty and rabble rousing.
Wow. What happened that asking questions is considered bad form?
Asking questions is a core business practice – if you’re an effective business.
Asking questions produces a virtuous circle. Asking questions stimulates conversation. Conversation stimulates learning. Learning produces change. And change is essential to any effective business, whether for-profit or nonprofit / NGO.
Good fundraisers certainly ask questions of their donors. Questions like: “What caused you to give your first gift to our organization?” “Why do you keep giving?” “What do you like best about our organization – and what bothers you the most?” “How can we better nurture the relationship with you?”
And there are so many more good questions for your donors. Just take a look at Keep Your Donors. Visit the Free Download Library on this website. There you’ll find a PDF that suggests questions to ask your donors. And you’ll find a PDF called “Conversation is a Core Business Practice.”
Get your own copy of Keep Your Donors because it’s full of questions to ask your organization, your boss, your donors. You’ll find cage-rattling questions to stimulate strategic conversation that can help you build a stronger organization.
Too many people – fundraisers, executive directors, board members – focus on “how” not “why.”
You know what happens when you focus on “how” only? You don’t probe the depths. You don’t learn enough. You can’t understand “how” when you don’t understand “why.” In fact, “why” matters more than “how.”
Keep Your Donors promotes “why” even as it offers lots of tips on “how.” And my workshops and seminars promote “why” along with “how.”
But back to unserious and uncurious, words used by Peggy Noonan in the 10-17-08 issue of the Wall Street Journal.
Unserious and uncurious. People who don’t ask questions -genuine, meaningful, and even cage-rattling questions – are uncurious. And uncurious people are unserious, too. Curiosity and seriousness are partners.
The world is too full of too many people who just talk – but not seriously. The world is too full of people who are uncurious.
— People who don’t wonder how other people in other parts of the world look at life and look at financial crises and look at government.
— People who never explore media outside their own city or state or country. — People who never reach out to someone whose life experience is different than their own.
How can you be serious if you are not curious? What do unserious and uncurious people offer to our world? Not much. In fact, they are rather dangerous, I think.
Uncurious and unserious people are dangerous in any profession or job or organization where they work or aspire to work. These people hurt nonprofit and for-profit organizations. These uncurious and unserious people hurt the philanthropic sector.
By the way, when Peggy Noonan talked about unserious and uncurious, she was talking about Sarah Palin. “She doesn’t think outloud. She just…says things. She does not speak seriously but attemps to excite sensation.”
Do you know any fundraisers or executive directors or board members or government leaders or other professionals who are uncurious and unserious? Who don’t think outloud but just talk? Who don’t ask meaningful, risky, cage-rattling questions? Who just pursue “how” and never figure out “why”?
Too bad, eh?



Filed under: Leadership

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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