At the two extremes of the Gift Initiation Continuum, our work can be described as either pulling donors along with our institution’s vision and priorities. Or, having donors push their priorities and interests onto us.
Or, a gift can be initiated by a donor. In this setting, we adopt a more reactive posture and respond to a donor’s interest, values, and vision for their giving (i.e., donors pushing).
The effective advancement leader, though, recognizes that the most productive gift initiation approach is not found on the far extremes of this continuum. We should not solely be pulling donors along with us nor should we only be in reactive-mode when donors push.
Instead, the best advancement leaders curiously inquire about the donor’s interests, values, and aspirations. The most effective advancement leaders then compare these responses with the mission, vision, and priorities of the institution. And, finally, the most productive advancement leaders creatively propose ways in which the donor’s involvement can both meet their needs and help the institution better meet the needs of those it serves.
The extremes of any continuum grab the bulk of the attention. Rarely, though, do those extremes describe the most helpful approaches. Being aware of the bounds of a continuum is important, however, so the full range of options can be understood.
Far more important, though, is cultivating the characteristics of curiosity, creativity, and flexibility as you engage donors. It is these attributes that allow you to operate skillfully in the productive middle of the continuum.