“We don’t believe what we hear. We believe what we say.”
Social scientists have proved this old saying over and over again in a multitude of studies. For instance, and as Daniel Lieberman and Michael Long report in their book, “The Molecule of More,” if we talk with someone about the importance of honesty and then watch as they play a game in which cheating is rewarded, we probably will see our words having little impact on their behavior.
But, if we ask someone to tell us about the importance of honesty and then watch them as they play the same game, they will be much less likely to cheat.
Many advancement leaders believe fundraising success consists of personally engaging donors, sharing the wonderful and positive impacts of the institution, inviting gifts, and finding creative, thoughtful ways to thank donors.
And, to an extent, that description is accurate.
However, fundraising becomes far more successful and generosity much more contagious, when donors have the opportunity to convince themselves about the worthiness of your institution and their support of it.
Questions like, “why do you give so generously to our institution?” Or, “what made you start giving to our institution?” Or, “why is our institution so special to you?” are not simple conversation-starters or idle chit-chat.
Instead, these types of questions should form the basis of our work with a donor.
If we want to reap the “believe what they say” benefits, we should spend more time asking donors to share their stories about the institution and spend much less time sharing our stories about the institution.