Social Styles and Versatility: Turning the Fundraiser into a Relationship-Builder

For the majority of today’s nonprofits, donor acquisition is a reality that constantly has to be addressed, as generous and reliable support is the lifeblood of the average organization. Scouting and identifying prospective donors can become arduous in and of itself, but getting them to buy into your mission – literally and figuratively – often proves to be the most nerve-wracking part of the acquisition journey. While it is necessary to ‘sell’ a prospective donor on your mission in order to garner any contribution, approaching the experience with a spirit of relationship-building as opposed to “what can you do for me,” not only helps to alleviate some of the inherent pressure that comes with the conversation, it pays dividends in the long run because a good relationship is the gift that keeps on giving.

This is the premise behind the Social Styles and Versatility seminar. Hosted by the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy at JFK University, the seminar is part of a larger series on fundraising and donor giving and seeks to empower participants by highlighting social styles of communication and how to apply them to relationship building.

Self-awareness is a powerful ally

“Social styles is actually an approach that looks at an individual’s communication style,” says Dr. Benisa Berry, Diversity and Inclusion officer at JFK University. Dr. Berry, along with a panel of donor and nonprofit experts, will present at the seminar and administer assessments to audience participants in order to determine their communication style. “It’s gaining awareness of your own style and how [it is] perceived by others; and then how to recognize other styles,” she says.

Self-awareness is a powerful ally when attempting to connect with potential patrons and employees. Knowing which social styles mesh well and how to discern them in others could be the difference between a dead-end interaction and a long and fruitful relationship. It comes in handy when team building as well – a balanced and successful team is inclusive of all social styles and seeks to pair individuals with tasks that align with their strengths.

Learn to Flex Your Social Style

Not only will seminar participants learn to identify the social styles in themselves and others, they will learn the importance of versatility. The ability to “flex” to other social styles is an important skill when seeking common ground. “In the work that we’re doing, when we’re interfacing with donors or funders, it helps to know what that person’s social style is,” says Solomon Belette, Director of SIP. “You can make whatever adaptation you need to engage that person more effectively and create synergy out of that relationship.”

The assessment being delivered to all seminar participants will not only help identify an individual’s social style, it will score their versatility; gauging their ability to “flex” to another person’s style and identifying areas that can be improved. “The value is in your ability to flex to other styles,” says Dr. Berry. “That’s where you are developing your skill.”

The two-hour seminar will take place on May 18, 2017 at JFK University’s Pleasant Hill campus. Executive directors; fundraising, marketing, and communication staff; donor advisors, and community engagement professionals will undoubtedly find this seminar useful, but the ideas explored here will also be beneficial to anyone seeking heightened self-awareness.

-Kendall Brown, Writer, John F. Kennedy University