I was probably 13-years old when I first heard the song on the radio, I Need Love, by LL Cool J. I liked the beat and melody, but I did not, initially, pay much attention to the words. It was not until I heard some guys in my class rap the lyrics that I felt compelled to learn the lyrics.

Once I cared, I really listened.

LL kept repeating three words in the chorus—simple and straight to the point: I need love. I liked the song so much, I asked my parents to purchase the cassette tape for me.

I would pop the cassette in my Walkman, hit play, and pause to write down the words. I’d rewind it, over and over, until I had all the lyrics written down in my notebook. Then, I would practice it, over and over, until I knew the song by heart.

By heart.

My commitment to the task was about more than a song. It was about the feelings and emotions it conveyed.

I have continued to use that listen-well-and-write-it-down process over the years.

In fact, I sang one of these songs to my wife at our wedding: A Ribbon in the Sky, by the incomparable Stevie Wonder. The time it took to listen well and write it down was definitely worth the effort.

In the same way that music sets a mood and conveys emotion, I like to set the right tone as a fundraiser. We should all consider the importance of feelings, emotions and sentiments when seeking to attract prospective donors to a cause. There should be creativity, even artistry, associated with any successful fundraising.

For example, while not all donors will want public recognition, I have found you cannot “sing their praises” enough, and you cannot say “thank you” too often. It can be accomplished in many ways, but one of the most important is to do exactly what they have told you they want done. And don’t just assume you heard them correctly, write it down. Like learning a song you want to sing to someone you care for: listen, repeat it back, get it right, and write it down.

This level of consideration builds trust and increases the likelihood of repeat giving—which may increase donors’ desire to share publicly, with family and friends, their sentiments about giving to your organization.

By creating the right mood—one that reflects genuine love and personal appreciation—we can better inspire individuals, foundations and corporations to write love letters back to us in the form of monetary support.

Remember the song: I Need Love! And remember, donors and volunteers need love, too. It’s only through working together that we have the greatest potential for unleashing the power of philanthropy.

Kevin Williamson
Associate Consultant
High Point, North Carolina