Generous Listening

What is it and how can it transform your fundraising results?

Most of the time when I’m working with leaders and board members who are preparing to meet with a donor or prospective donor, their biggest question is “what should I say?”

Here’s what I always tell them, and I wish more people knew:

We have been taught that fundraising is about getting our message across, inspiring people with metrics, sharing compelling stories about our work, and crafting the perfect ask.

But what if fundraising is actually more about listening generously to people. 

Listening for what they care about and why your mission speaks to them. 

Listening for what they are worried or angry about and how they want to try and change those things. 

Yes, of course there will come a time when you need to talk about how they can take action through their giving — but what might happen if we learned to listen longer and more generously?

Here’s what I know 


Listening is the key to building relationships. 

Relationships matter because it is through relationships that we create change.

Relationships are how we facilitate transformative gifts — gifts that fuel change.

Change happens when people care.

People care when they are in a relationship with you and your mission.

People care more about what your goals and needs are when they feel that you care about them.

Not as check writers, but as whole people.



Listening is more than being quiet while the other person speaks until you can say what you want to say.

We all have an immense capacity to listen but too often find it uncomfortable.

Generous listening requires openness — not just of the ears, but of one’s whole body and being.

Generous listening is listening with the body — with all the senses, taking in all in.


Generous listening is not easy. 

To do it deeply, one must overcome biases, prejudices, fears, preconceptions, assumptions, and stereotypes.

To listen generously is to pay attention.

To listen is to love.

For more on generous listening, how to ask better questions, what to listen for, and more — download my new Generous Listening guide. I made it for you.

Amy Varga

Amy Varga


Amy Varga is a beloved fundraising trainer, coach and consultant. She and her team at The Varga Group have guided over a hundred nonprofit clients to raise millions of dollars through their services in capital campaign counsel, major gifts training, leadership coaching, and board development projects.