Bind Your Campaign and Donors Together By Finding Shared Values
Have you ever taken some time to think about what values you and your organization live by?
Start With Your Own Values
I live in a building in the South Bronx that contains 11 residential condominiums and two commercial spaces. I know all of my neighbors, but being a condo (as opposed to a co-op), we have no approval over who buys the units.
In this building, we all know one another in a way that you don’t always find in a New York apartment building. In our last building, my husband and I didn’t know the names of the people on our floor, despite having lived there for nine years. But in this building, we do.
We’re a mixed group—a doctor; a lawyer; a librarian; a sanitation worker; a ConEd employee; several artists; a couple of singers; an artists’ rep; a playwright. Some young, and some old. Black, white and Asian.
At our last condo meeting, we began a conversation about values. At our next meeting, we’re going to structure a discussion in which everyone will be asked to give their thoughts about which values they believe should be adopted for our community. Once we come up with a collection of values we agree upon, we’ll post them in the lobby—alongside the official building department notices.
I do love that idea. Imagine these documents hanging on the wall in the lobby:
Certificate of occupancy
Fire inspection certificate
Statement of Values—things like respect, inclusion, creativity and kindness
That idea of posting values right alongside of bureaucratic stuff makes me smile.
Do You Know the Values Your Organization Lives By?
Do you take the values your organization lives by for granted? Do you ever discuss them? Or do you assume that you and the people you work with agree?
I’ve come to think that we don’t do anywhere near enough talking about underlying values that shape the way we function, both separately and together.
The conversation in my building is still in its infancy. And I suspect, being that you work with or at nonprofits, you are much further along than we are. In fact, you may have already established your organization’s values when you were working on defining your mission.
But the funny thing with values is, we’re not always on the same page—even if we seem like we are. If you make a list of 10 values, sure… most folks at your organization would be in agreement on many of them. But if you had to choose a core group of three, would everyone agree?
Maybe… maybe not.
And that’s worth discussing.
What Values Do Your Donors Live By?
Then you might take that discussion one step further — with donors. Do you know the values your donors live by? There are three reasons this is important:
A key to developing donors is getting to know what interests them. What do they care about? What is their story? This allows you to understand why they might give to your organization. And you better believe their values are a key element in that decision.What if you could find the ways in which your organization’s values and you prospects’ values are aligned? Wouldn’t that make the conversation that much more meaningful—and maybe, even easier?
Building relationships with donors is a key element of fundraising. You can read tons of articles about donor relationships. But one thing you might not read about is using your organization’s values (and even your own) to connect with donors. You can use them as a tie that binds—a common thread to weave through your interactions together. For example, if you know that your donor values diversity, you will be sure to invite them to a story telling night with diverse voices that your organization is sponsoring. Values are a tool you can use to build an authentic understanding of each other.
- You can use values to frame your asks. This seems obvious, but it’s important enough to spell out. U-s-e y-o-u-r v-a-l-u-e-s w-h-e-n f-r-a-m-i-n-g a-s-k-s! This goes for conversations, emails, brochures, appeal letters, anything. Write your organization’s core values at the top of the page as you create drafts, and use them as a guideline. Keep them top-of-mind when deciding what to say in a meeting. They are there to help you communicate.
Shape Your Capital Campaign Success With Aligned Values
As you can see, values are valuable! And they’re definitely worth discussing with your team more than once.
Having conversations about core values will help shape the future of your organization. And publicly posting what you come up with will help keep your organization’s values alive—even if that just means putting some Post-Its on the wall!
How does your organization keep its values fresh and alive? Share your ideas in the comments below. Or head on over to Twitter and share your ideas with us there.
Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.