Can I Hug You?

| by Mendi Nieters

It was a good night! Friends we have not seen in over 18 months called and asked us over for dinner. We have been holding out, but now that all of us had our COVID-19 vaccines it was GO time! The food was fantastic, but the company and conversation were spectacular.

That moment getting out of the car and walking to greet our friends felt a bit out of place, or at least it did for about 15 seconds. We were out of practice! Then my friend asked, “Can I hug you?”

One, I loved that she wanted to give me a hug. I am a hugger and have been known to hug strangers on the regular. Two, I loved that she respected me enough to ask.

This past year has been one of changes, challenges, pivots, and learning. At times it has felt that we have analyzed everything we do and how we do it. That is not necessarily a bad thing. But in many conversations with nonprofit leaders, our discussions have turned to connecting and engaging with donors, partners, and key stakeholders during a pandemic and a year of social unrest. We keep coming back to simple truths: Don’t assume and simply ask.

Are you making assumptions that your donors are not in a position to give?

Are you assuming that your stakeholders don’t want to hear from you because there is so much going on? Are you assuming how they want to hear from you?

Are you making choices and leaving partners out of the conversation because you assume they have already decided?

This year has taught me again to not assume. When I value the other person’s investment, input, and partnership, I simply need to ask and then be quite and listen. They will let me know how to proceed and save me the time of assuming.

There have been many pleasant surprises this year. Donors who have stepped up and increased their giving to meet a need. Nonprofits who exceeded end-of-year projections because their base responded to how they adapted to the changes of 2020. Partners who are depending on each other to fill the gaps versus simply talking about collaborating. If we assumed and had not asked, many opportunities for engagement would have been lost.

We have been tested and learned so much over the past year, but in the end I think we have been reminded that sincere connection and communication are key.

And yes, we hugged. Can’t wait to hug you all, but I will ask first!

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