children gathered around a grandmotherThis week I asked Joop Rubens, Firelight's Development Director, to tell me what he considers to be the most important value in fundraising. What was his response?  Listening.

Here's what he had to say...

"I never aspired to be a ‘fundraiser’. It’s not a career that I, or my peers, were aware of growing up. Even if it was, I am doubtful I would have considered myself to be outgoing enough - a quality I would have assumed necessary to be a good fundraiser. And, though opinionated, I consider myself to be the quiet type, very visual and auditory focused. I’m a listener.

About 15 years into a non-profit career, the listener in me translates into an absolute love of gathering support for a cause. Raising support is all about listening, not about talking or selling. People give because they have affinity to a cause and because they enjoy advancing what is important to them. They want to support what they care about. It takes listening to find the intersection of their passion and generosity. Sometimes that intersection benefits Firelight Foundation; other times, the intersection may be far removed from our cause, but playing a part in that process is humbling and inspiring to me.

We are all different, and distinctive experiences shape our lives as well as our philanthropy. Of course I wish everyone around me

would care primarily about assisting the many kids made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS in Africa. It happens to be what I am passionate about. But that’s just it. The very essence of philanthropy is personal. Listening implies hearing. You may have experienced hunger as a child, or your alma mater may have changed your life. Plenty of solid non-profits focus on these topics and merit your support. I enjoy directing people to these organizations.

Listening is a core value at Firelight, and not just in our fundraising efforts although that’s my role as Development Director so it’s often on my mind. Listening is what has allowed us to turn the spotlight on community heroes in Africa that would never otherwise be known. There are organizations that now receive the attention and resources of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and Elton John because Firelight had the guts to believe in their passion years before anyone else did. Firelight was the first to listen. It paid off."