Emotional Intelligence – a Key Skill for Fundraisers?
Thursday, 3rd July 2014 at 11:26 am
Emotional intelligence is increasingly being applied to fundraising where relationship management – building bonds, collaborating, influencing others and inspiring – is a critical part of an effective fundraiser’s armoury, writes leadership coach Geraldine Kilbride at the London Business School.
Emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ) refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, leading researchers on EQ over the last two decades, define it as "the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions".
Regarded by some observers as more important than IQ, it is increasingly being applied to fundraising. After all, relationship management – building bonds, collaborating, influencing others and inspiring – is a critical part of an effective fundraiser’s armoury.
The International Fundraising Congress, organised by the Resource Alliance, includes a workshop on EQ while its future leaders programme has identified it as a key component of effective leadership. It is also gaining traction in Australia where there are a number of organisations and practitioners offering training, including the Fundraising Institute of Australia which recently held its first leadership training session on EQ.
Far from being merely a buzz phrase, EQ and its positive application to fundraising has real credibility. Great leaders move us, they excite our passions and inspire us. We talk all the time of strategy, causes, ideas but the fundamental reality is more primal. Leadership – and fundraisers need to be leading not following – excites our emotions.
Therefore fundraisers need to be driving emotions. No matter what else they do be it creating campaigns or mobilising teams to action, their success depends on how they go about it. If they fail in this nothing else will work as well as it could or should. The best leaders and fundraisers have found effective ways to understand and improve the way they handle their own and other people’s emotions. Giving is an emotional act. It is a physical response to an emotion felt.
The very act of giving generates emotions – usually positive and very often, a sense of well-being in the giver. Therefore encouraging and even maximising, while not manipulating, this emotional response is key to being an effective fundraiser.
I work with thousands of executives and see, first hand, how more intelligent use of emotional awareness results in a person who can perform with agility, who is not overly stressed by change and who can drive performance. Those who live in their own bubble cannot motivate others so create friction and a jobsworth attitude where cynicism flourishes. They believe it all about how much work they can get through and not how that work can best be accomplished. Two thirds of people quit their jobs because they cannot stand their boss.
In fundraising, focusing on the financial target over and above the cause it is meant to serve will produce negative results in the long run. Therefore fundraisers need to integrate the principles of EQ into their daily role. Skill as with most competences comes with understanding and practice. This means putting in the effort and the hours. It is a discipline, not a nice to have and does not mean that you simply go around being nice to everyone. To get better at EQ requires work. You should use every relationship opportunity to hone self-awareness, self-management, social competence and the ability to manage relationships.
Social awareness enables fundraisers to demonstrate empathy – a key skill if they are to conduct meaningful campaigns which touches peoples' hearts and consciences. It also involves meeting the needs of others, be they donor or colleague or wider society. Ultimately, understanding and sensing how people are feeling will help fundraisers to assess what will most effectively persuade donors to give.
About the author: Geraldine Kilbride is a leadership coach at the London Business School and is program director for the Resource Alliance’s Future Leaders Program – an 18 month leaders program for middle and senior managers.