Each year I resolve to become more involved with more worthy organizations and to actively support their causes. It’s a part of who I am. In fact, I’ve often joked that I work simply to support my volunteer habit.
Over the years I’ve served on many, many boards of non-profit organizations. I’ve had the honor of Chairing many Boards and have worked to help set the direction moving forward. I’ve also been retained by many non-profits to help them refine their messaging, raise money and better understand how they can effectively generate support in both the near and long term.
Much of this depends upon the “story” being told. This is true with all organizations, not just non-profits. However, non-profits often have a strong emotional appeal, one that should be recognized and leveraged.
To be effective, organizations require an overall strategy. The strategy should include engagement. This means talking with those who may support your cause throughout the year, not just once or twice. Recently I received over a dozen emails requesting donations on Colorado Gives Day. I’ve never engaged with most of them. It’s obvious that I’m simply on their mailing list.
In contrast, there are groups that I hear from throughout the year. Because of this, I am more likely to support them. I know when I receive a request for a donation from them where the monies will be spent, what their purpose is and how I can connect in other ways. The groups that I’m familiar with are far more likely to receive a donation than those that I don’t know.
The most effective way to raise money is to present a case for what you are doing. This isn’t done quickly or for one day. I’ve been known to say that when non-profits are raising money, they should be aware that it is like a courtship. It takes time. Most first dates don’t end with a marriage proposal.
The glory of non-profits is their cause. This is what matters to people. Thus, messaging that enables me to share their purpose with others is much more likely to garner my support than graphics tracking donations to indicate how much more is needed to reach a particular goal.
Before you call me a Scrooge, let me say that I support many different groups monetarily and through pro bono work. It is for that reason that I shake my head when I see messaging that isn’t likely to connect for the long haul – to build loyalty over time.
This year, I challenge all non-profits, and for profit businesses as well, to consider what your mission and value propositions really are. Are you communicating them throughout the year to those who matter most to your organization? Are you creating buy-in so that people fully understand what you do and why you do it? Is your organization on cruise control, simply sending out information when there is an opportunity to garner donations?
In 2020, try thinking about involvement as an indicator of success. What are the different ways that customers, clients and donors can interact with your organization? Do you have plans that include messaging for your different target audiences? Do you have plans that will guide you throughout the year, and not just sporadically? If not, why?
My resolution for 2020 is to work more with non-profits that wish to separate themselves from the crowd. There is so very much be to gained when a thoughtful strategy is identified and put into place. I look forward to being captivated by the stories behind our worthy organizations!