Photo: Listening ear with Fueling Dynamic Fundraising text

The Combo Meal: Listen to What People Need in Order to Dish up a Michelin Star

Posted on June 30, 2023 by Rachel Ploss, TPF Fellow 2022/23
"The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention." – Rachel Naomi Remen

One of the most critical things I have learned while working for The Patterson Foundation is not to arrive with the answer. What this means is to instead gather information before deciding what to do. This could be in the form of gathering research or engaging in conversations to discover the unknown. We must first seek and uncover what is out there to accurately inform our decisions on what role we should play to advance whatever it may be.

Recently, the Fueling Dynamic Fundraising initiative went on a listening tour to assess the community's needs and aspirations around fundraising. As part of our plan to listen, it was important that we met people where they were. For this reason, sessions were offered in person and on Zoom. We invited organizations from The Giving Partner and had over 112 participants from 95 organizations, including CEOs, development staff, and board members. The turnout tells us one thing, organizations in the Suncoast region are hungry for professional fundraising learning opportunities.

So what menu items do they have an appetite for? Our listening tour told us many things.
  • One, the opportunity to be in a room full of like-minded individuals who face many of the same challenges when it comes to fundraising was invaluable. Regardless of what comes from these listening sessions, it is a blessing to know that they provided a safe space of connection — large and small nonprofits struggle with the same things. Building that trust and connective tissue can only prove to be beneficial.
  • Two, fundraising during COVID versus post-COVID looks different for every nonprofit organization. To me, this validated our listening tour. The Fueling Dynamic Fundraising initiative started amid the pandemic, and now that we are post-pandemic co-existing with COVID, we need to know how things have changed. I'm just grateful that participants were not only able to provide us with specifics but also to recognize how different it is for each of them. Almost everyone is interested in taking classes or workshops to further their education on fundraising. This desire is the main course they're hungry for.

Where do we go from here?

The chefs in the kitchen at The Patterson Foundation are now working on creating the most appetizing main course for organizations to strengthen their fundraising efforts. Thankfully for us, we got our ingredients directly from those in fundraising across our four-county region. Now we have to use those ingredients to find the right recipe. As someone who was hands-on during all the listening tour sessions and has been a sous chef at TPF for nearly a year, I am certain we will craft the right recipe because of the power of asking questions.

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