by Dick Durning

In three hours you will be meeting a CEO of a huge corporation whose personal worth exceeds $200 million. You will represent your organization and the objective is to secure a future gift in the six figure range. This person is well-known in the community, conservative, and is no-nonsense.

At a board retreat, I asked the members to imagine themselves in this setting. What words come to mind?

“GET ME OUTTA HERE” was the first response.

Others replied: “Scared to death.” “Nervous.” “Dread.”

Why is there such negativity when we are confronted with the idea of meeting with someone and asking for support—especially for a cause we deeply believe in? Our answers vary:  “Asking for money is always hard!” “These are scary economic times.” “I hate being turned down.”

There is an alternative.

Entering your meeting, you instead bring an openness and a generosity. Assumptions are scrapped, fears are shelved, and attitudes are left at the door. You and your host are about to explore possibilities. And, by meeting’s end, you will reach a new level of understanding and association.

From beginning to end, you use a simple practice called “Generous Space.”  Throughout your time together, your provide a generosity of: invitation (I), sharing (S), exploration (E), and affirmation (A)—ISEA.

Invitation provides your host choice. “May I invite you to visit our site?” “May we explore possible funding?” “Could you expand on that comment?”

Sharing is your response to the host’s questions and/or interests. This is your gift, your opportunity to provide information about your cause or organization that is directly benefitting your community.

Exploration (quality questions). The meeting begins with an openness. You do not have our host profiled as “wealthy”, “intimidating”, or “famous”. Instead, you bring a curiosity and intent to discover your host’s interests and objectives. Related to your generosity of invitation, you explore with questions that help you open up new insights and understandings.

Affirmation assures clarity. You review a comment or a question to affirm that you listened well. This tells your host that you are listening intently and want their confirmation that their message was heard.

Your meeting will take on a quality of ease. Invitation… sharing… exploration… affirmation arise within space of generosity. It is a space that naturally helps transforms your relationship from host/guest to a partnership seeking common ground.

Participants are amazed and delighted with the simplicity and effectiveness of the way you have hosted this conversation. You have created a Generous Space. Whether asking for a six figure donation or selling a raffle ticket, the practice is the same always mindful of generosity. You are that gift!