Ver­i­ty nine: you have presence

Written by
Jerold Panas
November 10, 2013

None of the great fundraisers I interviewed indicate that presence is important. Then, when we discussed the question in some depth, most spent a good bit of time talking about how important an element presence actually is.

For the type of fundraising I’ve been writing about, being ‘attractive’ to the donor is important. Having ‘the right’ physical appearance is part and parcel of the whole collage which confronts the donor.

This certainly doesn’t mean being pretty or handsome. That has nothing to do with it. And it doesn’t mean having ‘a power handshake’, or being a roaring extrovert.

Almost all the great fundraisers interviewed said something very akin to what George Engdahl told me: ‘I think that the way we dress and the way we look is important. I wouldn’t want anyone calling on me who wasn’t well groomed and well put together.

‘The fundraiser needs to look alive and vital. And I think they need to be terribly careful about their weight. A great deal of this is something that each person has considerable control over.’

Having presence was rated at the bottom of the list of factors of what makes a great fundraiser. It was next to the very last. No one thought it was important – and everyone talked at length about it!

We all know men and women who, on entering a room, make the room a little less crowded. I don’t believe that this type can make it in our field, at least not at the high level of success we’ve been discussing. Not unless there is sufficient inner-motivation to do something about it.

To have presence that fills the room is important. It attracts others to you. It helps get the gift.

Presence is one of those words that everyone talks about, and no one defines. It somehow eludes precise description. Yet, it’s one of the most important elements in our work.

I’ve tried to put my finger on what it is – this ethereal quality. If there is one single factor that explains it best of all, it would be charisma. Yes, I know! I’m sorry to use that overworked word, but that depicts it best of all.

Charisma, before the Kennedy era, was a beautiful term, from two Greek words – a divine gift of grace. The energy, the force, the vigour.

It’s not physical appearance, dress, or funny stories. The single quality that sets those ‘who have it’ apart from those who don’t – is energy. That’s presence: energy, divine, invincible energy. It shows and it glows.

About the author: Jerold Panas

Jerold Panas has been professionally involved in fundraising for over 40 years. He combines his understanding and experience with a special talent for strategic planning, major gifts and volunteer development.

He is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars and a regular contributor to professional journals. Dr Panas is regarded as an author of particular note and his books are considered amongst the most significant in the field.

In 2013, he received the coveted lifetime achievement award for his contribution to philanthropy and fundraising. In 2011, the Cultural Office of Mexico cited him for his contribution to the nation’s philanthropy.

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