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A while back I was traveling with a friend. After some time together, he said something interesting:

He said – “You talk to everyone. EVERYONE! And in almost every instance you give them honest and sincere compliments. When they walk away, I can see them walking just a little bit taller and a lot happier.”

He was right. There are few things I enjoy more than giving someone a sincere compliment or expression of gratitude. But wait — before you think I’m telling you how gracious and generous I am, the truth is when I compliment other people, I do it for me. It’s selfish, much like helping people is selfish. You and I feel great about ourselves when we help someone else. Or when give them a reason – a true, sincere reason – to smile.

But of course, I’m not the only one…

My father used to run a program at the University of Miami called, The Center for Non-Profit Management. The program’s goal was to help non-profit professionals – the people who run charities – learn how to better manage their businesses.

Both my parents had long and storied careers in public service, doing truly incredible things to help less fortunate communities improve their lives and their situations. But they were also very successful businesspeople. And from the perspective that unique combination of skills and experience produced, my dad’s belief was that most non-profit organizations don’t actually need more volunteers or even more contributions. What they needed was to understand how to run their businesses for results – hence the name, and the purpose, of the organization.

One month my father invited his good friend, George Knox, to come present a seminar on fund-raising. In case you don’t know him, George is an extremely accomplished attorney. He stands a full six foot five and speaks in the commanding style of a southern minister. Actually, “speaks” is a misnomer.

George orates.

So there he was, handsome in a dark suit and tie, ready to share his gift with the audience. The room was packed to the aisles with funding-raising professionals from almost all of Miami’s charitable organizations.
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What you might not know about fundraisers (the people, not the events) is that most of them don’t believe they hold a very elevated position in the community. Why? Because people often avoid fundraisers since they don’t want to be asked for money. And so the fundraisers themselves feel the brunt of people crossing the street to avoid them.

George looked out across the sea of expectant faces and boomed out something like this (no quote marks here because after all these years I’m paraphrasing, but I remember it really well):

Do not feel as IF you are imposing on the people you ask to contribute because in truth you are doing exactly the opposite – you are helping them.
You are not asking them to feed the hungry. You’re not asking them to hand out clean needles. You’re not asking them to heal the sick, comfort the lonely, home the houseless, or remember the forgotten. You and your organization are doing all the heavy lifting.

All you’re asking them to do is… (George made a quick motion with his hand, like you’d do to signal your waiter to bring the check). And when you do that, you’re giving them the chance to be one of God’s angels on earth, serving a higher power. Jesus turned loaves into fishes. You’re helping people turn money into blessings.

It is you who is giving THEM the gift, NOT the other way around. THEY should be thanking YOU!

When George was done and the seminar ended, everyone in the audience walked out standing just a little taller, and a whole lot happier.

That was the day I learned how important it was to make others feel good. That was the day I started writing All About Them. And that was the day that inspired me to come up with our agency mantra:

Good brands make people feel good.
Great brands make people feel good about themselves.

But we know it’s not just about business, don’t we? I like being nice, friendly, giving someone an earnest compliment, a smile, a reason to be happy, even if it’s only for a brief moment in their day or their lives.

Oh, and by the way… You look marvelous.

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