Last evening I reveled in serving as a pledge host for WPSU, Penn State Public Broadcasting for It’s You I Like. This program was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the airing of the first episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Did you miss out on Mr. Rogers? This CNN article provides a bit of background about the show
Whether or not you watched the program the title, and Fred Rogers, speak to fundraisers. I had the honor of escorting Mr. Rogers around the Penn State campus many years ago. I again had the opportunity to meet with he and members of his production team in Pittsburgh not long before Fred passed.
Hearing Fred sing It’s You I Like with one of his guests,
Seeing him interact with KoKo the gorilla (who had the capacity to communicate using sign language), and
Watching major stars react to Mr. Rogers episodes (Sara Silverman teared up at one point, wistful might describe John Lithgow’s expression)
reminded me of the man. Observing Mr. Rogers during his visit I noted his ability to focus on the person with whom he was speaking and only that person — that person became the most fascinating person on the earth.
So too, while I only observed Mr. Rogers on this visit, it seemed that Fred Rogers could find something to like about everyone he met. That was true whether he was speaking to a major donor at a reception or the janitor who was preparing the room where he was slated to speak.
So why might you as a fundraiser want to channel Fred Rogers? Here are five possible reasons:
Mr. Rogers exhibited great curiosity about the world and the people within it. As one of my Penn State students recently observed, “if I want to be a fundraiser it seems I should be well read and knowledgeable about an array of topics” – I could not agree more.
- Understanding that, as per Advancement Resources, It’s Not About Me
Yes, we have initiatives to fund and goals to me. However, giving is about the experience of the prospective donor, it behooves us to understand that they are passionate about. This LinkedIn article is about focusing on team members, but the same principles and the link apply to working with donors.
- Educating – Fred Rogers was a master teacher. Yes, he provided information, but in a way that was warm, welcoming, and invited the leaner to engage. I don’t believe in fundraising as selling, for me it’s a process of learning what matters to a donor then educating them about how a program for which our nonprofits seeks funding might connect back to the donor’s priorities.
Some might prefer the word care, others respect, affection, fondness, or even goodwill. It is difficult to watch Mr. Rogers and not feel a sense that one is loved and cared about. Here’s an article featuring tips from Tom Ahern about how to show donors some love in your communications.
If for no other reason love is a reason to channel Mr. Rogers because love of humanity is the definition of philanthropy.
Do you remember Fred Rogers, or know of a similar figure? What qualities or characteristics of that person might you want to channel and why? I hope to hear from you because we can all learn from one another.