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The Greatest Lesson Ever Learned

I was scrolling through my LinkedIn account one day, when a particular post caught my attention. The post recounted about a teacher who desired to teach one of his business classes a valuable lesson. It is quite a profound story, and it has stuck with me for some time. I initially tried to imagine the perspective of the students and how I would have responded to this lesson, but then I tried imagining what the perspective of the teacher must have been like. I imagine it would have been something like this:

I taught my students everything they would possibly need to know about business in my business-strategy class. They should be well-prepared when they go out into the world. It is important they know and understand these strategies, but I do not want them to lose sight of what is most important. Success in business, or in any field for that matter, boils down to the treatment of people – the people you do business with and the people who make up your business. Every life matters, and I want my students to understand this.

As I prepared their final, these thoughts whirled in my mind. It was then that the lightbulb went on, and I knew exactly what I needed to do for this final.

The day of the final, I studied the faces of all my students, offered a sincere smile and said, “I have taught you everything I can teach you about business in the last 10 weeks, but the most important question is this: What’s the name of the lady who cleans this building?”

A hush fell over the room. A deafening hush. I could see the pure shock in the faces of my students. Her name was Dottie. Dottie came to clean the building every week day, but most of the students had never taken the time to say hello, introduce themselves, and find out her name. Some students looked perplexed by the question; others perturbed. A few students stopped by afterwards to thank me.

What a poignant story, right? Walt Bettinger, the CEO of Charles Schwab, was one of those students that day. In a February 2016 interview with The New York Times, Bettinger claimed this was his greatest lesson he had learned in his career. He now tries to “know every Dottie [he has] worked with ever since.”

As we move forward into a new year with new possibilities and fresh beginnings, how can we begin to think more about the people in our lives? Many of you are in the fundraising world, working directly with donors and prospective donors every day. Do you take the time to get to know these folks? Do you know their wedding anniversaries? Do you know about their daughter’s bar exam coming up? Do you know they lost a loved one to the coronavirus? For some of you, you can answer yes confidently because you have taken the time to build relationships with your donors. But for some of you, maybe it has been hard to prioritize the relationships, when your deadlines and quotas are crashing over your head. Some of you feel pressure from every side, and you have begun to lose sight of the reason why you got into fundraising in the first place. Now is a good time to take a step back and evaluate. We live in a virtual world now, so we have to get creative. Consider the following ways to get to know the “Dotties” in your life:

  1. Commit to learning one personal fact about the donors or prospects with whom you have been in communication. Ask questions. Show interest in their lives. Try to make a personal connection with them.

  2. Consider setting up a virtual lunch hour with a few of your coworkers. Perhaps, think of someone who could possibly be taking this social distancing a little harder than others.

  3. Choose one coworker a week to intentionally compliment. Show them that their hard work has not gone unnoticed.

  4. Create a stronger online presence. Your donors and prospects are on social media more than ever. Offer messages of hope. Share about the good work your organization is doing during these unique and difficult times.

  5. Continue to reach out via e-communications. Your e-newsletter enables you to include intentional information about your organization in a consistent manner.

  6. Craft a donor survey. Learn more about your donors’ interests through an engaging survey.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Do you have some ideas of your own? Feel free to share them here! It never hurts to remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Bree Daniel

By Bree Daniel
Integrated Marketing - Southeast Region, Crescendo Interactive, Inc.

Dan Leeman says:
January 12, 2021 4:41 PM PT

Very good Bree! Helpful. I do try to learn names. Tom the postman. Scott the garbage man. Have a list for our church service's attendees. It works. Bree the blogger...haha!

Bree Daniel says:
January 14, 2021 7:37 AM PT

Hi Dan. Glad this was helpful for you! I really like your method for learning the names of the people around you. Very creative!

Char Jones says:
January 22, 2021 2:20 PM PT

A great lesson for us all to remember. My Mom always told me to learn the name of the "lunchroom ladies" as an example of this concept. PS It sure worked -- they always gave me extra desserts. Especially their yummy cookies.

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