Why You Should Stop Being a Hero
Are you living a meaningful life?
After a pause to consider, most of us will answer, “not sure” or “not really.” It’s a hard question to empathically answer, “yes!” without doubt.
As we scroll through headlines and highlights triumphantly displayed on our social media feeds, it’s hard to feel that we who answer phones, enter gift records, clean office dishes and chip away at “To-Do” lists will ever arrive at greatness. Can you recall the feeling that, although your nonprofit has a meaningful mission, your workweek just feels like uneventful routines and ordinary tasks? That your calendar isn’t filled by heroism and courageousness?
Your donors can relate.
Each donor—more precisely, each person—wants to live a meaningful life. Donors want to be part of a big vision. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Your donors want to be the hero of the story.
Yet, donors are everyday working people just like us. They also have “To-Do” lists, frustrating colleagues and personal fears. Donors daydream of changing the world; they dream of leaving their mark and being recognized for their contributions. However, their ordinary and everyday lives don’t afford acts of heroism and bravery.
That is, until the donor meets you.
Donors Are the Heroes
You see, your organization enables donors to create change. By giving, your donors are able to “outsource” the impact they want to see happen and care deeply for, but don’t have the time or abilities to enact directly. While you and your staff may deliver programs and services, ultimately, it is your donor who mobilizes your work.
We need to stop being the hero and allow our donors to save the day.
This necessitates a total paradigm shift. It’s easy to feel that we who work on the front lines and bear the emotional (and sometimes physical) burden of nonprofit work are the real heroes. However, it’s simply not true. We are all just characters in the bigger story. We hold important roles to be certain, but we’re secondary to our donors. They hold the lead role.
We do refer to our work as nonprofit “service,” after all.
When we shift our case for support—our message deployed in emails, grants, letters and phone calls—to make our donors the hero, we’ll see a new level of community engagement. Open rates increase. Response rates double. Enthusiasm skyrockets.
It’s just how we’re wired. We understand stories, because we read them, watch them and recount them every single day. Our social accounts and personal conversations all build a narrative about who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going.
Your nonprofit is telling a story, too. You’re on a mission to resolve a core problem that’s plaguing your community. You’ve built a cast of staff and board members. You’ve set the stage and created the setting through buildings and program sites.
Now, you need to recruit the stars of the story: your donors.
Heroes resolve a story’s central conflict. As the plot takes a turn for the worse, a hero steps in to save the day. The save-the-day moment is what keeps us glued to a screen or turning a book’s pages until we reach the back cover. So, if you can position your donor as the one who’s able save the day for one of your constituents, you’ll not only receive a positive response, it will be an immediate response.
We crave to see conflict resolved.
To recap, don’t be the hero of your story. Make your donor the hero, and you will grab attention, create excitement, incite an immediate response and increase overall giving. You will even encourage donors to tell their friends and family about you. I mean, who doesn’t like telling the story of their own heroism?
To put this into practice, take these two examples:
This year, The Advocacy Center has set an annual giving goal of $100,000. Through your gift of $100 or more to help us meet this goal, we’ll be able to provide emergency shelter, a welcoming community and professional counseling for women and families facing domestic abuse and violence.
Last year, we were able to serve 100 women with $50,000 in giving towards our general fund. This year, we’re thinking bigger. We’ve set an ambitious goal of serving 200 women and families. Our staff wants to do more—and better—for those who need us.
What did you think? If you had $100 cash in your pocket, would you give it, right now, to The Advocacy Center?
Before you decide, read this message from Martha’s Shelter.
Have you ever felt afraid?
Jenny has. In fact, Jenny feels fear more than happiness, joy or any other emotion. She lives in fear, because her home is filled with alcoholism, emotional torment and physical abuse. Jenny has been thinking about escaping from this reality to give her one-year old son, Benjamin, a different future. But Jenny feels trapped. The fear that her husband will discover she’s leaving and increase his violence and anger toward her is overwhelming. Jenny needs someone to reach out to her at the grocery store, gas station or community center.
Our staff can’t be in the community to reach Jenny without your support, however. Today, you can enable us to reach Jenny and not only change her life, but Benjamin’s, too.
Will you consider helping Jenny with a gift of $100 today? Your $100 will allow one Martha’s Table staff member to be present in our community, today.
Imagine if Jenny was your sister, cousin or neighbor. Would you be her hero, today?
Now, would you choose to give to The Advocacy Center or Martha’s Table?
Which message does your nonprofit sound like? Are you the hero of the story, or is your donor?
Nate is a CFRE and was the co-founder of DonorPath.org, which merged with Network for Good, where he now serves as their senior program director of impact & sustainability. In this capacity, Nate is primarily responsible for helping grantmakers to evaluate and redesign their grants process to better accomplish strategic impact objectives.
Since beginning work in professional fundraising, Nate has helped more than 500 small and emerging nonprofits address their most pressing fundraising challenges. As a Millennial who has dedicated his career to the fundraising professional, he is a sought-after speaker and workshop leader, helping Generation X and Baby Boomer fundraisers understand donor acquisition, digital, social and online fundraising.