Should I Develop People Skills, or Technical Skills?

People Skills are Far More Important than Technical Skills

I was once at a planned giving seminar where at least five different people asked me some form of the same old question: “Should I develop people skills, or technical skills?” We frequently get emails from clients asking the same question.

Let me start by answering the question with a question of my own: Did you know that most companies base 80% of their hiring decisions on a candidate’s technical skills, yet 85% of employee turnover is due to behavioral incompatibility?

We are so hung up on fulfilling technical requirements that we frequently forget we’re dealing with people, and fail to identify or analyze the necessary people skills required.

People Skills For the Win

As an individual, people skills are by far the most valuable tools to assemble in your toolkit when you’re seeking success. And as an organization, people skills are by far the most valuable traits to seek out when you’re hiring fundraisers for your nonprofit.

People skills allow you to forge the kinds of relationships that are at the heart of good fundraising. Without some kind of relationship, there can be no “ask,” and certainly no gift.

Don’t Get Technical

Invariably, someone always asks me, “But Viken, what about CRUTs and CRATs? They’re complicated! Shouldn’t a planned giving fundraiser know those first? Shouldn’t we focus on learning the ins and outs of every single gift vehicle?”

Absolutely not. If you really need to, you can always hire an outside professional to assist you with the technical details of planned gifts. But most planned gifts are simple (the majority are bequests). Sure, being one of the rare folks who is gifted with both skills means The Force is truly with you. But if you’re not good with people, you won’t bring in any planned gifts at all — no matter how much you know about them.

Always remember: People give to people, not to institutions. So instead of taking the next course on gift annuities, start at the beginning: Pick up a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie… an $8 investment that has made millions for millions.

Planned giving is a people business. Not a legal business.

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