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  • Writer's pictureFrances Roen

Listening For Healthy Fundraising

Updated: May 29

Our Sol Full Fundraising Model helps nourish the health and sol of fundraising teams by infusing sol supports in every meeting, workshop, and fundraising tool we share.

This month, our attention is on the Sol Shift Essential of Listening. We ask the questions:

  • What does it mean to listen?

  • Who am I listening to?

  • How do I listen well?

Listening Requires Focus

Text on a blue background that reads, "Listening is the auditory equivalent of holding up a pair of binoculars or peering through a microscope. It bring the speaker clearly into focus."

Merriam-Webster defines listening as the ability "to hear something with thoughtful attention; give consideration".

A fundraiser's brain processes roughly 70,000 thoughts per day, though we do not consciously register the majority of this information. To listen, then, requires us to slow down. It is the auditory equivalent of holding up a pair of binoculars or peering through a microscope. Listening brings the speaker clearly into focus.

Listening Requires Intention

With all the people and tasks vying for our attention - how do we decide who to listen to?

Too often, the loudest voices are interpreted as the most important. But consider these other 'voices' that may have valuable information to share with us:

  • our bodies

  • our closest friends/loved ones

  • the seasons

  • our environment

  • our intuition

Fundraisers' time is precious! So when we choose to listen, we must use discernment to decide where to put our attention. The source we listen to will determine the information we hear.

Which voice do you tend to trust the most? Which may have something surprising to say?

Listening Requires Practice

If it's been awhile since you tried listening to one of the sources listed above, here are some ways you can experiment.

Listen to your body. One of the most common ways to listen to your body is to conduct a body scan. This is a mindful way of noticing each part of your body through focused breathing. If you are new to the practice, HelpGuide offers a 13 minute guided body scan. You can adapt this by giving yourself 5 extra minutes in bed in the morning or before you go to sleep to check in and see what your body needs.

Listen to someone you love. Sometimes it is most difficult to give our full attention to the people closest to us! The next time you feel challenged to listen deeply to what someone in your life is saying, take a breath and tell yourself "curiosity, connection". Listening with curiosity helps us ask questions instead of make assumptions. In the same way, when we listen to connect with the other person, we listen for the meaning beneath their words. We seek to understand "what does this person really need right now?"

Listen to the seasons. Take a walk or find a comfortable place to sit in a natural setting. Listen to the animals that are active in this season, and notice which animals are missing from the soundscape. Which one do you relate more to? What might that suggest about how you should spend your energy in this season?

Listen to your environment. Whether you work from home or are in an office, consider tuning in to what is happening around you. Set a 60 second timer and just listen. Did any of the sounds surprise you? Were you inspired to shift your attention in a new direction? For more inspiration from your environment (indoor or outdoor), Street Wisdom has free audio guides that help you look for answers to questions as you walk through the world.

Listen to your intuition. Intuition is simply a combination of the multiple sources of information cited above. Physiologically, our bodies sense when something is off before our analytical brain registers it. People who invest in us - rather than drain us - point us toward our greatest longings. The more aware we are of our environment, the more we pick up on subtle clues that lead in the right direction. If you feel disconnected from your intuitive 'gut', it may be a sign that you need to practice listening to one or more of these other areas.

Why We Listen

We believe that the fundraising health of your organization is directly tied to the health of your team. Listening is a wellness practice that builds wisdom into the thousands of decisions we make each day.

Listening is the one of the Sol Shift Essentials for healthy fundraising. To listen well, to really listen, requires us to take a Pause (another Sol Shift Essential). For some easy tips on how to build more Pause into your life check out our previous post: Pause. Rinse. Repeat.


Frances Roen is a Georgia girl at heart, and has been graciously adopted by beautiful, snowy Minnesota. She is a forty-something daughter, friend, mom, wife, and entrepreneur, and is always on the look-out for a perfectly fried piece of chicken.

Frances is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) with nearly 20 years of experience fundraising and has raised over $200M for nonprofits. She has held fundraising positions at The Bakken Museum, Augustana Care Corporation, and YouthLink and consulted with dozens of nonprofits clients across the globe. In these roles she has been responsible for all aspects of fundraising including comprehensive campaigns, major and planned gifts, annual funds, events, communications, corporate partnerships and volunteers.


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