The following is an excerpt from Redefining Healthcare Philanthropy.
Each member of the development team has their own personality, strengths, and weaknesses. Leaders must evaluate the team and determine how effective each person is in their role and if there are opportunities for advancement or areas that need work. Does the person have the appropriate intellect for the position they hold? This will most certainly differ depending on the type of work being done. However, let’s explore the desired and necessary skills of frontline fundraisers.
Frontline fundraisers include revenue-generating specialists in annual giving, special events, major gifts, planned giving, grants, and stewardship. In small shops, many of these specialties are handled by one or a few people. In larger shops, each area of specialization is filled by one or many individuals doing the same or similar tasks.
Regardless of staff size, frontline fundraisers must possess both academic and emotional intelligence as well as poise, confidence, and flexibility to meet and speak professionally with a wide variety of people. Finding people who possess these qualities is difficult. This ability to meet people where they are is not a quality that is easily found or taught. It is imperative for frontline fundraisers to be capable of one day comfortably meeting with a CEO of a major corporation who sits behind a five-foot-wide, mahogany desk and to meet the next day with a donor who has the equivalent of a 1940 schoolroom desk.
Flexibility to relate to people from all economic backgrounds is a critical skill. To effectively listen to the prospect/donor and be nimble enough to switch gears regarding the level of formality, tone, and physical stance is the difference between a fair-to-poor frontline fundraiser and an outstanding frontline fundraiser.
There is a theory that all frontline fundraisers, and particularly CDOs, must have gravitas as a primary quality in order to fulfill their role effectively. Gravitas defined includes descriptors such as seriousness, lordliness, somber, dignified, of importance, and the center of gravity. If the theory were fully sound, frontline fundraisers would be effective only occasionally.
What is under consideration here is the absolute need to be agile in knowing the appropriate demeanor required to be with donors from all walks of life. This requires a high level of emotional intelligence. To be in gravitas mode while sitting with a donor who is looking for someone who laughs, listens to jokes, and has fun in life would be like rain pouring down at a Fourth of July fireworks event.