Listen and Lead: How Fundraising Is Teaching Me To Cast a Vision with Humility

By Barron Ryan

Here I sit, just three days into my online campaign to fund a new album, and with 80% of its goal already raised.

Is this because of the music’s popularity? Nope. 1920s–’40s Piano Jazz is hardly flying off the shelves.

Maybe I have a lot of fundraising experience? Wrong again. I’ve never done any (that I can think of, anyway).

Rather, I attribute much of this success to the humbling practice of listening while leading.

I started out with what I thought was a great plan for raising support. I would make an online campaign and promote it until it was as wildly successful as it needed to be.

But when I started meeting with friends about the project, they weren’t so excited about that idea. “Why don’t you raise more funds directly?” they asked. “Many people would prefer to contribute that way.”

Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that. Okay, let’s adjust to allow for it. But there was more. “You say you need the entire amount raised by November. Is that really true? People can help more if given more time.”

Another very valid point. Okay, let’s make the timeline a little looser. “Is that all that you could use? Think about what else you could accomplish if you had more resources, and be prepared to cast that vision.” Why not? I’d gladly accept more help to go further, faster.

This listening and adjusting wasn’t (and still isn’t) easy, but it was invaluable. Not only did these friends have insights that I didn’t, my willingness to heed their advice demonstrated that I was more concerned with the success of this project than my own ego. As a result, I gained even greater support for the better ideas I adopted.

So when you’re leading, be sure that you’re still listening.

Set a course of action, but remain willing to change it if a better course presents itself. You just might be surprised at how quickly you achieve your goals.

Barron Ryan is still listening and leading an online campaign to fund his new album. Visit to learn more.

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