Communication is the most important skill anyone working in the nonprofit sector can have. The funds you raise aren’t for you, they’re for a higher cause. It boils down to your team persuading potential donors to contribute to your cause. So it’s easy to see that, at the end of the day, all you have is your word.
Many philanthropists, as I’ve noted before, treat everyone the same. By “same” I don’t mean “equal”. Rather, a potential donor or volunteer from one background receives the same information, attention, and communication as someone from a different background. We’re taught as children that each of us is unique, but we seem to lose sight of that as we age. You need to approach your potential game-changers as the individuals they are, not as a singular entity under one roof.
But this can be difficult. We’re conditioned to keeping work conversations in the office, and conversations of personal interest between our closest friends. Is this inherently a bad thing? No! But it is a bit jarring when someone from accounting is suddenly asked to contribute her time or money, when the only words you’ve spoken to her are about the weather and the new office space.
That’s why, I think you should read Tommy Spaulding’s best-seller It’s Not Just Who You Know. It’s simple, and doesn’t lose its message in self-aggrandizing pomp. The anecdotes are down to earth, and prove the power of a single conversation.
Spaulding writes at length about the different levels of interpersonal relationships, and the people we encounter at each one. At the lowest level are those with whom we just discuss news, sports and weather. At the top —the “Penthouse”— are our closest mentors, confidants, and loved ones, whom we serve with no expectation of reciprocity.
You can imagine which relationship is most useful to helping you achieve your goals. Spaulding helps us understand what makes penthouse relationships special, and why it’s possible to take someone we’ve recently met all the way to the top.
Of course, not everyone we meet will enter into penthouse relationship with us. Spaulding understands this, and helps the reader foster relationships at all points along the scale.
After reading it, you will be eager to listen to people and look for ways that you can selflessly help them. Whether they need help refining an idea or just want a shoulder to lean on, these relationships are what we, as humans crave. It’s Not Just Who You Know shows us how to make the most of them.