The dispiriting losses in the election are an unfortunate illustration of the Democrats not having listened in 2008. The people said two things:

1. Stop the war!

2. Fix the economy!

The first item was clear, and it was ignored…

The second was interpreted to be fixing the big-picture economy and thus came propping up Wall Street and the Banks, then health care reform. However, since jobs went away and never came back, and all the people who bought houses for too much money are underwater, the economy doesn’t appear fixed.

What to do now?

1. Stop the war!

2. Jobs!

Is that clear enough?


In one of the New Yorker’s reminiscences of J.D. Salinger this week, they point out what an extraordinary listener he was. My mom is the same way–she can recount a conversation she had a week, a month, a year, a decade ago with astounding detail. I didn’t inherit this skill unfortunately. For me, I have to consciously stop, focus, and ideally make notes.

Difficult though it is, it’s worth it. In every phase of the development process, it is so important to stop talking and start listening. For instance, what happens in the morning when the mail is being opened? Each check that arrives often is a great window on the collective knowledge of the staff. If you listen carefully you can often find out a complete giving history for that donor, when the last check arrived, who should write the thank you.

Questions don’t count as talking. Ask tons of questions and find out what is important to the people you serve, your donors, your boss, your staff, your colleagues. The answers you get will make every next step easier.