“You Are My Friend” is a feature film based on the life of Fred Rogers which is now airing in the U.S. For those not familiar with Fred Rogers he was a staple, an icon, of U.S. public television. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood aired for decades and Fred Rogers and his cast of characters were beloved by multiple generations of children (their parents too).
To learn more about Mr. Rogers check out Mr. Rogers: It’s You I Like, which is a public broadcasting documentary about Fred Rogers which aired in early 2018.
After the release of It’s You I Like I posted a series of LinkedIn articles titled Channeling Fred Rogers. Why? Because I believe that Fred Rogers’ way of interaction with his viewers and the world speaks to fundraisers.
I don’t speak only from watching Mr. Rogers on television. I had the honor of escorting Mr. Rogers around the Penn State campus many years ago when he visited to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of public television. I again had the opportunity to meet with he and members of his production team in Pittsburgh not long before Fred passed.
Observing Mr. Rogers during those visits I noted his ability to focus on the person with whom he was speaking and only that person — that person became the most fascinating individual on the earth.
So too, while I only observed Mr. Rogers on these visits and via television, 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 robserved, “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.
To people of different backgrounds and topics. That said Mr. Rogers never came across as someone who had a political agenda, he simply was open to the world and people.
3. Understanding that, as Advancement Resources teaches It’s Not About Me
Yes, we have initiatives to fund and goals to meet. However, giving is about the experience of the prospective donor, it behooves us to understand that they are passionate about.
4. 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 their 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.
If for no other reason love is a reason to channel Mr. Rogers because love of humanity is the definition of philanthropy.
If 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.