Yesterday, I had the privilege of representing my social media coaching with the Human Business Works team at a trade show called the “New England Xpo.”

Trade shows are weird.

Trade shows remind me of my work as an admissions counselor. You stand at a booth, waiting for people to come by. The trick is, people might want your information, but they don’t usually want to talk to you. So they try to avoid making eye contact or attracting attention in any way.

Sort of like fundraising, right?

But when people did walk up to the table, it got even weirder.

People didn’t really expect me to listen to them

When people did come up to the table, many just stood there. As though they were waiting for a schpeal.

More than a couple people were totally bewildered when I asked them questions about themselves. Questions like “what do you do when you’re not at the expo?” and “Do you already have a website?”

They really didn’t expect me to care.

And then it hit me how much like fundraising that is.

Good fundraisers are good listeners

The best fundraisers are really good listeners. We listen to both what is said and to what is not said. As we engage other people, we learn what aspects of our cause would be the best fit with their interests and values.

Mediocre fundraisers give a schpeal

That might be too harsh. Beginners give a memorized schpeal too. It’s more comfortable that way because they’re still in control. Listening takes a lot of work. And you never know where the conversation will go.

Too often, we just get wound up in our schpeal. Thinking that if we say just the right combination of words we’ll get a gift.

The truth is, saying just the right words is vital. But you don’t know the right words until you’ve listened to the other person.

So, what’s left of this week, would you join me in making a commitment to be a better listener? A good place to start would be learning some of Bob Burg’s 10 Feel Good questions.

Together, we can fund our causes without giving our donors a trade show-like schpeal.

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