Grab Your Partner!
Since my move from client to agency, I've become something of an unofficial therapist for folks looking for perspectives from "the other side." Here are a few of the questions I've been asked. Any of them sound familiar?
I work for a major nonprofit that serves children's issues. We recently RFP'd the direct-response program and selected what we thought was a great partner — until our first meeting, where we spent the first two hours talking about our messaging.
Our founder always used a few key phrases during his years building the organization, and we've always honored him by carrying those through. Our new agency told us specifically that we couldn't get a direct-response program to work if we didn't use stronger language, tougher imagery and a complete departure from our core values. We were not expecting this, and the conversation left all of us feeling a bit let down.
The account executive continued on and on, even saying, "Let's just test it." In the end we finally said that "this" was an organizational decision and we'd have to just work hard to keep raising funds while we kept our core values intact.
How do you get that relationship with your agency to the point where it trusts that you know your organization and count on its fundraising expertise to help take the message you want to possible donors?
— Charity Girl, Pennsylvania
Dear Charity Girl:
That's a tough one. I know consultants and partners just want to see you raise more money and fund your amazing programs even better. But sometimes those consultants need to take a moment to remember you know your organization better than anybody.
Start by having that open and honest conversation early on with your partner; it sets the tone for the success of the program. Start with the ground rules about tone, organizational messaging, what you can/cannot do in terms of your brand.
So, I'm a fundraiser having a mid-life crisis. And that's perfectly fine with me.
I am taking time to look around, lift my head and find REAL people who really want to change the world. And people smart enough to do it. Join me in this fun journey. I have no idea where we will end up - and that is the beauty of it. I'm nonprofit passionate, a hopeful world changer, and always ready to share what I know, learn what I don't, admit when I can't, and ask the hard questions.
While you're looking around for other areas of inspiration, check out The Moth Project at themoth.org (the podcasts are AMAZING), TED talks (doesn't matter which ones - find topics that interest you) and Volunteer Voices (again - love the podcast) written by volunteers from the Peace Corps. Don't see the immediate connection to being a better fundraiser? Just listen, you'll hear the message ...