How we met
I had the great fortune of meeting Mazarine at AFP ICON in March (her trademark spear caught my eye!). But we didn’t meet in a conference session or at a workshop or even at a networking event. We met at the entrance to the vendor pavilion because we had both stopped to take in the incredible music of an all-women Mariachi band. And, in addition to the spear (the best conference accessory I’ve ever seen), I noticed that Mazarine and I were the only two people moving our bodies in response to the band’s music. In fact, I noticed that most people didn’t stop at all. Fundraisers here, there, and everywhere – people who make a living listening – and so few of them stopped to listen. To enjoy. To be present. Which made me wonder: as fundraisers, as nonprofit professionals, when did we forget how to simply be? In our bodies. In ourselves. And how is that hurting our ability to build meaningful relationships with others?
Dancing all the time!
I have been a dancer since the age of three, and one of my majors in college was dance, so I suppose it is fair to say that I have more practice being embodied – in my body – than most. And, as I told Mazarine after the Mariachi band’s finale, I know for a fact that being a dancer has made me a better fundraiser. Because being a dancer has taught me how to be fully present, how to listen with all of my senses, and how to perceive the imperceptible – the conversations that humans have with each other without speaking a word, the conversations that our bodies have with each other. Those conversations, I find, tend to be the most honest. Because our bodies never lie. And I believe, in order to build truly meaningful relationships with donors, volunteers, Board members, and colleagues, we need to practice the art of being embodied more.
Why Dance Can Change Your Fundraising Forever
How might you lead a meeting differently if you noticed that your Board Chair’s body language indicated they were having a rough day? How might you revise an ask if you noticed a potential donor’s expressions signaled they were more excited about supporting your organization than you originally thought? How might you negotiate better for yourself if you were more aware of your own body’s movements? Of your own facial expressions? So much of the art of fundraising is here, in what is unsaid. It is the art of noticing. The art of listening. The art of empathy.
Learning how to be present in your body is an incredible tool for building empathy. And empathy, I think, is essential to fundraising. Not just the empathy you feel for those your organization serves, but for your donors, volunteers, and Board members. Empathy leads to real connections between people and relationships that last. And empathy builds trust – in you and in your organization.
So, I am going to suggest that we start moving more as fundraisers. Alone and together!
Dance, yoga, walking meditation – there are so many ways to practice being in your body. My organization has just started a weekly yoga class during lunch on Wednesdays. It’s already making a difference for the Development team! Perhaps at the next AFP ICON, there can be a contact improvisation workshop or a dance lesson. But classes and workshops aside, I hope that the next time you notice an all-women Mariachi band, you will stop to listen.
And maybe sway your hips to the music.