August 4, 2017   |   Jim Langley

Charisma vs. Curiosity

When I ask presidents, deans, CEOs and others what they are looking for in their next fundraiser, many still say, “charisma.”

Yet, when we listen to donors, analyze the records of successful gifts, and consult seasoned fundraising executives, they insist “curiosity” is the defining feature of the most effective fundraisers. Charisma draws attention to the fundraiser, curiosity to the donor. Curious fundraisers draw out stories of donors’ philanthropic quests, including what first instigated them, the values that guide them, and the hopes that continue to animate them. Curious fundraisers seek to discover which institutional facet best aligns with each particular donor’s passion and thereby develop deep expertise on a wide variety of institutional facets. Charisma might leave an impression on the donor but curiosity yields the information most essential to the framing and advancing of high impact initiatives in which donors and institutions forge lasting compacts of shared purpose. Charisma comes in flashes; curiosity burns bright and steady. Should there be any doubt which best illuminates the greatest philanthropic journeys?

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