(Personal Note from Bob:  Are you involved in “Fundraising?”  Either personally, or perhaps as a board member of a non-profit organization?  Or do you have friends who work in or with ministries or non-profits that you would love to help?   For the past 41 years I have been personally involved in fundraising.  “Fundraising” is a topic that I frequently speak on.   I read extensively about “Fundraising.”  Several weeks ago I discovered Kent Stroman’s book, Asking about Asking.  I had read only a few paragraphs when I said to myself, “This is someone I can learn from!”  Kent has “Mastered the Art of Conversational Fundraising.”   If you are involved or associated with “Fundraising” in any capacity you must order Asking about Asking )

Excerpted with the permission of the author from Chapter 7 of Asking about Asking :

I Learn a Lot More When I’m Listening Than When I’m Talking.

The reason for asking questions is to learn. Another purpose for inquiry is to instruct.  This method was perfected by the Greek philosopher Socrates. He developed a method of teaching based on asking questions to stimulate critical thinking. There can be any number of other purposes for asking questions, but in this chapter we’ll focus primarily on Asking to Learn.

Let’s begin with an examination of this most basic reason to ask.

One of the central concepts behind Western civilization is the importance of education. I like the way Daniel J. Boorstin said it. “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” There seems to be a natural inclination built into most of us that gives us the mistaken notion that ‘I already know all there is to be known.’ Wrong! And sometimes, because we are intelligent, we have to discipline our minds to recognize that there’s more to be known. Much, much more.

One of my college roommates, Wayne Yust, pointed out a pet peeve of his—the misuse of the word ‘obviously.’ One day Wayne mused that people often say something like “Obviously, that’s not the correct answer.” Wayne went on to explain, “What seems so ‘obvious’ to one person must not be ‘obvious’ to another person, or the other person wouldn’t have come up with a different answer. Consequently the word ‘obviously’ ends up being used in a way that is an insult…albeit unintentional.”

So in order to have true, meaningful conversation, we must get beyond what seems obvious. We do so by Asking to Learn.

If we are going to ask to learn, it will require just a bit of planning:

1. Determine what you want to learn.

2. Identify who you want to learn from.

3. Finally, formulate a question that will elicit an answer to illuminate your mind on the given topic.

One such experience for me involved a corporate executive with a stellar reputation in his field of business. He was generous with his personal resources and had enjoyed unusual success in raising his family. I did not know David Corts personally, but wanted to get acquainted and glean some of his life lessons. I decided to apply the three-step formula above as follows:

1. I wanted to learn tips for success in family and business.

2. David Corts was the source I wanted to learn from.

3. I had two questions for David:

a. “What do you consider to be the greatest single factor behind your success in business?”

b. “What have you done to keep your family relationships so strong?”

Next, I called David to ask if I could ‘pick his brain’ over lunch, and I would buy. As I look back on this experience today, I realize that my request was unusually bold. David was a top executive in a multinational corporation. I was nobody. The fact that he even accepted my call – much less joined me for lunch—is a tribute to his gracious character. Yet, I’m so grateful that I made that bold move those many years ago.

Rather than share all the success tips I garnered that day, let me say there were many, and I have adopted several for use in my own business and family. In addition, I gained a friend that day. We have shared many experiences together since then. To my amazement, David actually asked my opinion on a couple of issues that day. And, he even bought my lunch. What an unexpected treat!

The bottom line is: I intentionally asked to learn that day. I learned what I was seeking. But I gained far more than I could have dreamed during that brief lunchtime encounter.

Plan of Action:

  • Think about your prospective funders.  What would you like to learn from them?  ________________________________________
  • Who would you want to learn from?___________________________
  • Write three questions you could ask that would teach you want you want to learn.
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________
  • Decide when to call and schedule your meeting.  ____/____/____ @ ____:____

M. Kent Stroman teaches passionately, consults wisely, writes creatively, speaks inspirationally and helps willingly.  He is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) whose counsel has been honed by more than thirty years’ experience in nonprofit leadership, fundraising, strategic planning, capital campaigns, major donor solicitation and financial management. Kent loves learning, reading, traveling, singing, cooking, eating and fun!

You can connect with Kent at:   Stroman Consulting  or on Twitter @kentstroman

You can order your book at :  Asking about Asking

Which of your friends would thank you for forwarding this post to them?


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One thought on “I Learn a Lot More When I’m Listening Than When I’m Talking – Part One

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