Friday, April 18, 2008

Learning how to love people

At the Faith-Based Forum I attended today, non-profits gathered to interact and work on improving the way we gather data that informs our outcomes and influences our funding.

In the second half of the forum, we were able to listen to a panel of people from foundations who provide grant money to non-profits. This was set up in order for us to hear directly from the foundations to gain a better understanding of what they look for when reviewing grant proposals.

When it came time to ask questions, one gentleman in the audience respectfully asked how we, as non-profits, can demonstrate to the foundations that we are truly thankful and grateful to them. He also wondered how we could demonstrate our care and concern for them as valuable people without them feeling like we have an agenda or have our hand out to them asking them for money.

The panelists gave answers like,

"We want to be able to offer you resources, but we also want to learn from you. Create a dialogue with us."

"Don't come around just when you want something. Maintain the relationship. Invite us to some of your events so that we can see what you are doing."

"Continue the relationship with us even after the funding is over."

"Don't send Christmas gifts. ...Seriously."

Though this was all good advice and it was good to learn how to interact with funders, I wonder how often people reverse that process. How often do we create panels of people in the communities we "serve" and genuinely ask the community serious questions like,

"How can we, as non-profits, demonstrate our care and concern for you without coming across like we only want you to increase our numbers and our outcomes?"

I wonder if it the answers from the community wouldn't be very similar to the answers from the people with foundation money. Re-read the answers from above (with a few slight adaptations):

"We want to accept your resources, but we also want to learn from you and we want you to learn from us. Create a dialogue with us."

"Don't come around just when you want to give something. Maintain a relationship with us year-round. Invite us to events you have and come to events we have."

"Continue the relationship with us even when you don't have a 'program' you want to offer us."

"Don't send Christmas gifts. Seriously. Don't assume we always want charity."

It seems to me that the desires would be pretty similar. The monetary wealth is very different, but the desire for dignity and respect no matter how much money you make remains the same.

Have we asked the question?

Are we willing to hear and follow through on what people have to say??
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