Worthy or Entitled?
Have a fundraising challenge you want to crack? Weary of doing the same old, same old, yet hoping for different outcomes? Do you want the over-the-top results that come from superior strategy?
Email me with your particular problem and I’ll arrange a quick consultation offering you a practical solution you can implement. I may even use your situation to share with my readers. Names are changed, of course!
Lori and I had a brief telephone conference last week discussing the lackluster performance of her fundraising program. Lori is the executive director of a social-service agency.
Lori shared with me her frustrations with the “flat” performance of the agency’s fundraising. There haven’t been any revenue cliffs or disasters. But no growth, either.
She related the agency’s overall fundraising plan to me. It sounded solid. The agency gets good support from its board. It does good work and is noted for it from time to time.
So why has its fundraising revenue been treading water for more than five years?
One by one, we drilled down into each of the appeals. I kept seeing the trees instead of the forest until Lori’s offhand comment jolted me.
Frustrated, Lori blurted out, “What’s the point if these people aren’t going to really appreciate us?” “These people” are her organization’s supporters—its donors.
There it was.
As with so many fundraising challenges, Lori’s hurdle is of her own making. It has nothing to do with the local economy, the “competition” from other organizations or the relative affluence of the community.
Lori—and several in leadership in her organization—has begun to feel entitled to support simply because of the good work she does. She has crossed the line of being worthy of support to the unspoken demand that donors should give “just because.”
This subtle, yet very corrosive, attitude has crept into the organization’s donor communications and stewardship program. Acknowledging donors’ visions and values is nonexistent. Sending donors a tax receipt with a cursory “thank you” is the only expression of gratitude they receive.
Worthiness has become a demand. Just because.
An attitude of entitlement and a culture of philanthropy are mutually exclusive.
“But look at the good—even great—work we do,” you say. “We’re the critical difference for many.” Both statements may be totally true. Standing alone they are insufficient.
“Outcomes”—results—are critical. No doubt about it. Communicating these to your supporters and would-be investors is essential. You won’t be convincing without them. Results are insufficient, however, to enlist donors’ support at the highest possible levels.
Principle 2 of The Eight Principles™ is “Begin at the Beginning™.” This is the principle of communication. Telling supporters what you do in language they will understand and appreciate is absolutely essential. This will garner you attention from those who would support you and—in many cases—generate a financial investment, e.g., a gift.
Telling your donors the what, alone, won’t generate capacity gifts. At least not very often.
To garner your donors’ support at the highest levels—levels that enable your fundraising to scale—you must tell them the why.
Principle 1 of The Eight Principles™ is “Donors are the Drivers®.” Donors drive philanthropy with their visions and values—their why. Once again, it’s not about money.
As I explained, the light went on in Lori’s head. Wow! She got it. Energized, she told me she’s back to the drawing board for her communications and stewardship efforts.
I asked her to check back with me in a few months. I warned her that once in place, “just because” attitudes sometimes take a while to eradicate.
I extend my heartfelt thanks to Lori for reaching out. I wish her well.
Let me hear from you. Please share your situation and the challenges you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me and I’ll arrange a brief consult providing you with practical guidance. I’ll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Success is waiting. Go out and achieve it.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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