“It’s Not Always About You”

A car pulled into the driveway behind me and the horn beeped.  A voice called out, “Hop in!”

I was parked in the driveway of Terry’s home in Boca Raton, Florida.

“Let’s go have lunch at the club,” she said, as we greeted one another.

We’d never met before.

But Terry was very familiar to me.  She was a great friend of our president, who had contacted Terry and asked her to see me.  Terry said yes immediately.  Not because she was dying to meet me, mind you but because her friend, our president, asked her to.

We drove over to the club and chatted the whole while.  How long would she be down here, who else was I seeing on my trip, the usual.

Before I knew it we were seated at an outdoor table at the restaurant, looking out at the marina at the biggest boats I’d ever seen in person.

Suffice to say these yachts were not what you’d find at Bass Pro Shops.

The important thing to remember when meeting someone for the first time is, they want to get to know you.  Who are they dealing with?  Are you legit?  Are you a loser?  Are you a threat?

Terry knew the president would not send one of the latter two down to see her but she had questions nonetheless.  As best I could I gently shifted the conversation to her family, her business, and listened.

The golden word.  Listened.

What Terry didn’t know was that by the end of our lunch, I was going to ask her for $25,000.

We had a “challenge matching gift” and needed Terry’s gift to boost the challenge part.  She was our best prospect.  The president agreed and told me, “Go get her!”

No pressure.

Of course Terry wanted to hear about her friend the president (“Give me some real scoops”) and about our organization.  That was my chance to lead into the idea of the challenge, and the other donor who’d gifted $25,000 for the challenge, what the project would fund, but we wanted to make the challenge $50,000 and would she…


I didn’t even finish my sentence.  I had to ask.  “Terry, wow.  Thank you.  The whole $25,000?”

“Sure.  When do you need it?”

Our work is based on relationships.  This gift was no different.  I thanked her again, we tidied up the details and she had to go.  She committed $25,000 and she treated me to lunch.

For the rest of my trip I kept thinking, “Terry never met me before.  How did that gift happen?  Where was the relationship?”

Then it hit me.  Of course.  The relationship wasn’t with me.  I was just the messenger.

Her relationship was with our president.  Terry made the gift to her friend, the president.

So often I keep coming back, time and again to the words a young colleague shared with me one day:

“Rob, it’s not always about you.”



It is not always about you.  If we believe our work is all about relationships, and we do, then our job is to discern, “Where is the relationship?”  “Who is the relationship with?”

Sometimes the answer is easy.  The relationship is with the president.  A board member.  A former coach, or teacher.

Sometimes the relationship is more difficult to find.  Is it simply with the organization as a whole?  Did the person receive a scholarship as a student?  Was it the overnight nurse who came in and held the donor’s hand in the middle of the night?

Where’s the relationship?  Find the relationship and you are 90% of the way home to the gift.

Have a good day, my friends.

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