“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Sound familiar? Probably. This idea has been around for years, especially if you play a fundraising role at your nonprofit. 

But is this approach working? 

In a recent blog post, Seth Godin challenges the conventional wisdom of asking and encourages us to view the best “asks” as offers. By offering our assistance to help others reach their goals, we move away from a transaction and move toward building a true relationship–one founded on a spirit of love and generosity rather than mere self-interest. 

Imagine if you embraced the unique stories and aspirations of those you engage with, taking the time to truly understand their dreams and goals. 

Recently I was at a gathering and had the chance to listen to a group of nonprofit board members share their perspectives on board service.  One common theme arose: board members didn’t feel like anyone got to know who they were beyond their board service. Many also shared that they were asked to make financial contributions but never asked to contribute their unique knowledge, skills, or strengths as part of their service. As a result, they felt like seat fillers—ATM machines—and as one person shared, “I was just another number.”

I’m guessing this is not just a story that resonates with board members. Nonprofit staff, volunteers, donors, and even clients may have the same experience if we’re not careful. In a world where people are hungry to connect with something larger than themselves, all too often, they walk away feeling small, empty, and depleted.

With election year upon us, many of my nonprofit friends lament about the impact on philanthropy– polarization is high, trust is low, and people become distracted. So, if this is the case, what can you do to turn this story on its head, creating meaningful engagement and connection with those who interact with your nonprofit? In lieu of making any request, what if you listened with no agenda, called to just say, “hi,” or helped someone meet their goals, (whether this happens through your organization or not)? Less transactional. More collaborative. Fueled by passion.

Hat tip to generosity and selflessness this Valentine’s Day and always,

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