Emotional Intelligence and Fundraising:
An Interview with Janet Kendall White of Berkshire Group

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

Think about a time you went to a meeting and immediately connected with the donor. You were relaxed, conversation flowed, and the ask came easily. It was pretty powerful, I bet. Even magical.

It doesn’t happen every day, but it could happen more often with a little effort in the area of emotional intelligence.

In Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence,” he identified five qualities of effective leaders: self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, motivation, and empathy.

Fundraising is a relationship business. Improving your abilities is this area will improve your fundraising outcomes.

I spoke to Janet White of the Berkshire Group to better understand how to build these skills. I hope you find this helpful, and interesting – I know I do!

Ann C. Fitzgerald
President, AC Fitzgerald

Janet Kendall White – MBA, CPC, SHRM-SCP
Berkshire Group, Inc.


Q: What is emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ)?

Emotional Intelligence is a set of competencies demonstrating the ability one has to recognize behaviors, moods, and impulses, and to manage them well, according to the situation. Another way to put it – which is my favorite definition – is the ability to read the emotional and interpersonal needs of a situation and respond accordingly.


Q: How are corporations and nonprofits using EQ to create a competitive advantage in their organizations?

Much research has been done over the years indicating that those individuals with high EQ will outshine those with low EQ, regardless of intelligence or IQ. It isn’t education, experience, or intellectual horsepower that predict why a person (or an organization) succeeds.

EQ impacts literally every area of an organization, and organizations that intentionally build a high-EQ culture create a competitive advantage. And the great thing about EQ, unlike IQ, is that it can be developed with the proper tools and training.


Q: How can fundraisers apply emotional intelligence when interacting with donors?

Fundraisers can utilize EQ competencies and strategies to assess any interaction or situation in order to be agile in their approach, tailoring their efforts to a wide variety of personalities. Being able to read the most effective response to donor questions, for example, based on individual traits and situations, and adjust according, is a critical strength in fundraising.


Q: What are some ways to build your emotional intelligence skills?

The first step in building your emotional intelligence is an honest assessment of your current strengths and areas for improvement. From there, put in place an action plan to build on strengths and improve weaknesses. After that, I recommend ongoing regular assessments every 6-12 months.

An initial assessment gives a snapshot at a point in time. Our EQ changes as we focus on developing certain competencies and mindsets, so reassessing to measure our improvement is important. We also can go backwards in some areas when major change happens, and the reassessment helps get us back on track. Many experienced that shift with the pandemic where things that may have been strengths pre-pandemic needed some focus as we’ve all tried to go back to “normal”.

There are many tools out there to help facilitate these assessments for individuals, or professional teams. My personal favorite, and the one I’ve used for many years, is Wiley Everything DiSC®. And organizations like mine – Berkshire Group, Inc. – specialize in leading teams through the whole process.

I strongly recommend working with a qualified facilitator. He or she can assist in understanding your assessment, applying results to your team dynamic, and making an action plan. Most of us are not really as self-aware as we think we are, so going through a more structured approach, with outside perspective, is important. And as with any type of development, have an accountability and reinforcement plan in place after the training to assure progress continues.

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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