Are You Getting Out Enough?

Are You Getting Out Enough?


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


I’m intrigued this week by the idea that donors give for their own reasons much more so than for ours.

This paradigm shift – from the notion that they are helping us do our work to one that we are helping them do theirs – is a key that unlocks a ton of philanthropy.

But it requires that we listen instead of “sell.” That we define our role as learning instead of “educating.”

And that requires being in the same physical space.


Just as an intellectual exercise, pull out your Board list and scan it.

  • When was the last time you spent quality, one-on-one time with each Board member? I don’t mean at a Board meeting or at a party event. I mean over lunch or coffee. Or side-by-side on a walk or in a canoe.
  • Do you know what motivates them to give their money and their time to your land trust? Do you know their “story”?
  • What questions have you asked? Do you recall their answers?
  • Imagine asking them what they would like to have accomplished by the time they leave Board service. Do you know what they would say?
  • How are you helping them achieve that goal?


Now scan the list of your most important donors and ask similar questions. Do you know what motivates your donors to give? Do you know their stories? Have you asked?


Imagine a future state in which you could answer YES to the questions posed above. How many hours each week would you be spending out of the office, enjoying lunch or coffee, or walks or paddles with Board members and donors?

When YOU leave service to your organization and look back at what you accomplished, this work – getting to know your organization’s Board members and donors – might be the most important work you will have done.

Yet EVERYTHING else will get in the way.


Many of us (including me!) face the daunting prospect of our to-do lists being twice as long as our capacity. This creates a certain level of background anxiety all the time, but paradoxically it also creates a certain level of comfort. If I can’t reasonably be expected to get everything done anyway, then I get to do those things I most want to do – those things that are the most comfortable to do.

And in that work environment, what falls off the table?

Spending quality, one-on-one time with each Board member and donor. Being in the same physical space. Listening. Getting to know them as individuals who have their own motivations for giving – their own stories.


So, if you were to devote the kind of time necessary, what would that look like? Four hours each week out of the office? Having lunch or coffee, walking or paddling with Board members and donors? Eight? Sixteen?

Are you getting out enough?


Cheers, and have a great week!




Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay



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  • William STEVENS
    Posted at 07:15h, 04 February

    Tru’ dat. I started out in industrial sales, mentored by a wise old head and I followed his teaching. You join a project meeting with other sellers – your competitors. They all have piles of cut sheets and are ready to go on & on about their offerings. YOU on the other hand join the meeting with a pen and a blank tablet. When it’s your turn, you look at the customers and ask, “What’s your biggest pain in the ass? What keeps you up at night.” And they talk and you listen. And THEN you say, “Thanks very much. Would you like me to describe the solution?”

    • David Allen
      Posted at 07:45h, 04 February

      Good to hear from you, William. Thanks for your comment. Listening is a critical skill, but don’t underestimate the importance of BEING THERE. Too many of us are trying to raise money from behind our desks. We need a sign on our desks facing us that says “If you can read this sign, you’re not doing your job.”