I recently had a meeting with a potential client. The gentleman was passionate about his cause, frustrated with the red tape surrounding grant proposals and was eager to get more proposals out the door for sake of his client-base.
During the meeting, which lasted for about 60 minutes, I probably got 5 minutes worth of speaking time…but most of my comments were limited to “yeah”, “I see” or the very best: “what are you going to do about that?” (with an exasperated voice that was almost comical but seemed to match the tone of the dramatic solo performance).
As a consultant, its a red flag when a potential client cannot take the time to listen to what you have to say in the initial meet and greet. Heres two reasons why:
First off, its simply rude to not pause and consider the thoughts of the other person in a conversation; Emily Post – the authority in manners – would agree. A 55 minute soliloquy over coffee is just awkward.
Second, the Association of Fundraising Professionals argues that the best fundraising practices are based on relationships (Weinstein 2009). Related to the first point, a monopolized conversation is not rich ground for future relationship building. Some fundraisers go as far as to call their fundraising practices as “friendraising”; meaning genuine personal connections to individuals and their interests have to precede any formal ask for funds. It takes time to cultivate any relationship…after all…think of your best friend. That friendship did not form overnight with ease. It takes the same amount of work to cultivate loyal donors, supporters, and partnerships.
During this meeting, no seeds were planted for future friendraising.
I thought there was little hope of future growth when, after ignoring myself and the other consultants, the individual paused and asked for work personal work samples he may use to improve his grant proposal skills. The would-be client ignored the human capital at the table and saw only the tools we had in our portfolios.
As a consultant, it is our calling to advise our clients to recognize the good that they currently do, reinforce current best practices and encourage implementation of new practices that can improve the organization. However, this can only be done through sincere, mutual, and careful listening.
Both parties have to be willing to listen, learn, and adapt. I heard the need of the client but because the client did not pause to listen to my reactions, neither one of us could learn how we could get the organization to grow or adapt to its current challenges.
At the end of the meeting I am sure the gentleman heard me but I doubt he listened to anything I had to say. An unwillingness to listen screamed volumes to me…the message was loud and clear: I am not ready to take advice at this time.
Weinstein, Stanley. The Complete Guide to Fundraising Management. 2009. Association of Fundraising Professionals.