4 Ways ‘active listening’​ will help you to be a better Fundraising leader

Our sector has long ignored the universally known great leadership skill ‘active listening‘. How many job advertisements for fundraising directors or managers do you see which lists, “great listener” among the qualities desired in a prospective candidate? We always think of a leader as somebody who speaks in such a way that others love to listen to them, but we have never thought of our leaders as someone who listens in such a way that others love to speak to them.

So how here are the 4 ways ‘active listening’ can help you become more effective fundraising leader?

1. Listening leaders will be able to retain fundraisers for longer Many organisations suffer from a poor record of retaining fundraisers – and one key reason for this I come across when I speak to fundraisers (online and offline) is that fundraisers are frustrated because their leaders don’t listen to them and value their ideas, skills and experience. This frustration leads to decrease the fundraiser’s sense of worth in their organisation and naturally causes resentment, so they leave and look for another charity – one where the bosses listen to them. Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, the authors of ‘The One Minute Manager’ say the best way to create employee engagement is to allocate time to listen to them – and of course, good engagement will keep employees in the organisation for longer.

2. Listening leaders will get better fundraising results Active listening will help fundraising leaders to better understand their team members’ needs. This will put them in a better position to offer the right support, guidance, motivation, and feedback to help the team to succeed.

3. Listening leaders also help to facilitate innovation in fundraising Nelson Mandela was once asked how he learned to be an inspiring leader. He said his father was tribal chief and he was used to accompanying him to attend local meetings. He noticed that his dad was used to speak last. He learned effective leaders listen to others first and they ask questions for clarity before they take their turn to speak. Recent research from employment consultancy Engage for Success found that 64 percent of people at work say they have more to give to their organisations but no one is asking them, which suggests that it is leaders’ job to create the culture of listening and explore the untapped potential.

4. Listening leaders will learn something from everyone As Mao Tse-tung said: “We should never pretend to know what we don’t know, we should not feel ashamed to ask and learn from people below, and we should listen carefully to the views of the cadres at the lowest levels. Be a pupil before you become a teacher; learn from the cadres at the lower levels before you issue orders.”

Fundraising leaders need to stop thinking they know everything.  This is the great point to start listening to others, and start learning from everyone in their teams. 

This article was kindly published by Third Sector magazine.

I have written series of articles on ‘Active listening and fundraising’ and you may read at below links:

  1. Active listening helps to build strong relationships with donors
  2. Active listening helps us to fully understand our donors

3. Actively listening helps to discover donors’ passion and raise more 

#Fundraising #listening #majordonor #majorgifts #philanthropy


Ikhlaq Hussain is Head of Major Gifts at Orphans In Need, Trustee of Mind in Harrow, Board Member, Mentor and Trainer at Institute of Fundraising South East & London.