On Curiosity

In general, folks can be curious in 3 ways:

  1. Curious about things;
  2. Curious about ideas;
  3. Curious about people.

Typically, we all fall somewhere on the spectrum for each of these classifications. But, the most effective advancement pros lean heavily into the 3rd. (As an aside, some people are not curious about any of the 3 and can fall on the narcissism spectrum.)

Those new to our work – and far too many who have years toiling in the development vineyard – can fail at making a consistent practice of being curious about others. In fact, many actually fail in understanding that being curious about others is the fundamental key to the work.

If you are wondering whether you or your team are practicing the habit of being curious about others, ask yourself how you would respond to the following statements:

  • In general, we wait to schedule virtual or in-person visits with prospects until our case for support or funding priorities are clear.
  • During Prospect Management meetings, we spend the bulk of time discussing donors we have known for years.
  • For most of our current top donors we are unclear about how our institution ranks in their list of charitable priorities.

Responding affirmingly to these statements suggests you and/or your team may not be consistently practicing the art of inquiry.

As we invest our attention in the human lives and stories of our donors, they will be more motivated to invest their resources in the missions we serve. Ask more thoughtful questions authentically and consistently and watch as their interest in your efforts change.


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