23 Apr Where Even the Best Nonprofits Are Falling Short
Last week’s writing touched on the importance of being known in your community as a nonprofit leader. Known for the work you do, the impact it has, and the on-the-court difference it makes to the people who live there. Like it or not, giving has hit a tipping point. There is no question people want to give. The desire to contribute lives in each one of us. There is also the brutal reality of steadily rising costs of living that we’re all facing in North America. Where does giving fit into this reality?
Fundraising is no longer a phone call or a visit to a wealthy person to ask for money. Those were the good old days. The days when all you needed was your personal connections and a beat up Rolodex to hit your fundraising target. Attention is the new currency, and there is a high probability you lost their attention over the last two and a half years. Their lives changed, and their priorities shifted. The truth is, they are likely still giving. Just not necessarily to you. Here’s why…
Your Rolodex of contacts is being bombarded daily with opportunities to give. While they’re at the cash register paying for their purchase… “would you like to round up to the nearest dollar for charity?” While they’re surfing the web… would you like to play this 50/50 lottery for a good cause and a chance to win? While they’re scrolling Facebook… would you like to donate to your friend’s neighbor whose dog was in a terrible accident and needs life-saving surgery? Every. Single. Day. No exceptions.
Go Fund Me is among your top competitors. Plenty of jokes get passed around about Go Fund Me, but it’s a winning platform for giving today. Anyone can fire one up, and for just about any cause. Legitimate or not. What most nonprofits don’t realize is how many people search the site looking for people and causes to support. It’s a testament to how powerful the spirit of giving really is. It also points to what is driving so much of the giving that is happening today…
Personal stories are beating the crap out of old school fundraising tactics. Do you want to revolutionize your fundraising results this year? Simply put, start telling personal stories. This has to be the most underutilized and overlooked tactic in the sector. A long time ago, the “big names” of fundraising attracted the most dollars, mostly because they had mega advertising backing them. That used to matter to people. We are fortunate to be living through a giant shift in people’s priorities, and personal stories are the doorway.
Real human beings with personal trials are more compelling than your Mission. To be clear, it’s not that your Mission isn’t valuable or important. It’s that you haven’t revised your stated Mission to align with what people desire to connect with today. Time to ditch the corporate speak and professional jargon. Nobody cares about it. Nobody wants to hear it. They want REAL. If they can’t have it, they’ll go find it. And they will have no problem doing that, because it’s everywhere.
Personal connection is fueling today’s giving. So let’s talk about what that really means. Personal connection isn’t a donor who gave to your organization two years ago and she knows your name. Rather, personal connection looks like a retired veteran who dreamed of pursuing theatre and acting as a kid, and he never got that chance. He spends his days leisurely watching movies, attending local musicals and plays, and looking for inspiring young talent. He found your organization; whose Mission is to help kids launch a career in the arts. But he doesn’t just want to give money to your organization. He went to a few of your local events, and he’s got a few kids in mind that he wants to support. This is where it gets interesting…
Now more than ever in the world of giving, people want to know where their money is going. They want to know what their money is doing. What are you offering, and how are you offering it in a way that aligns with this desire? It would be very easy to brush it off and say, “Well, we don’t do that. They need to go to the website and use the donate button. We’ll decide where it goes.” This is precisely the attitude I see in every nonprofit that struggles to raise money. A modern-day tragedy.
Consider what it would look like to present giving as a menu with options. Can your supporters give to specific age groups? Can they give to specific programs that inspire them? Can they give in a way that makes it feel like they are a participant in the process? What if you offered a way for them to see their support in action by inviting them to view the results personally? It’s not enough to put a donate button on your website and call it good. Anyone can do that, and most organizations have. The question to answer is – what are you doing to revolutionize giving inside your nonprofit? What menu of options are you offering to move and inspire your supporters?
Despite being one of the most optimistic people in the sector, I cannot emphasize enough the need for a new approach to fundraising – specifically for small to mid-sized shops. It needs to happen right now. Not next week. Not next year. RIGHT NOW. The truth is, organizations don’t run out of money. They run out of ideas, and they run out of willingness. If you want your doors to stay open, it’s time to saddle up! There is work to do, and it starts with your approach to raising money.
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