I love a quote I read from Jessica Jackley, co-founder of the nonprofit, Kiva (www.kiva.org). Jackley was speaking about her reaction to a speech from a founder of a microfinance bank. She said “The way he talked about the poor was beautiful, respectful, and dignified. I didn’t have feelings of guilt and shame like I did after a lot of nonprofit messaging. Instead, I wanted to be there, listening to people’s stories and talking with clients face to face” (Article titled ‘The Profit In Nonprofit’, in the online Sanford Social Innovation Review at www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/the_profit_in_nonprofit). This made me think about the manner in which many nonprofits share their message of need; their need for money.
The more I thought about this, I realized that nonprofits are not just ‘in need of money’ to assist those whom they serve. No, nonprofits are also selling something. Think about it. What is your nonprofit ‘selling’ to your funders? Do your funders know what they are buying when they contribute to your nonprofit? I believe that this goes beyond thinking about the typical outcomes that nonprofits normally measure. It has to do with a change in how we think about a nonprofit’s purpose to the community. Tell me what you are ‘selling’ so that I can determine if I want to ‘buy’ it!
When I donate, what am I really buying? Am I buying a more stable economy when I donate to a shelter who is trying to get homeless people back into the workforce? Does that shelter have a sustainability plan for each person they work with to guide him/her towards self-sufficiency? Am I buying new careers for dancers, artists and singers when I donate to a nonprofit arts organization? Do these organizations launch and support such careers so that people are employed doing what they love and are good at while providing me with enriching cultural experiences? Am I buying a strong future for America when I donate to a mentorship program? Does this guidance and leadership organization give youth all the tools that they will need to become upstanding and productive citizens of our society?
There will always be critical aspects of nonprofit fundraising that cannot be ignored. For example: strategic planning to determine projected revenue estimates, appropriate and diligent budgeting to assess costs and financial needs as well as consistent networking to build and maintain strong relationships with donors (current and potential). But we should add a new way of thinking to our repertoire of fundraising marketing. Let potential funders know what they are buying. Think about the measured outcomes that every donor and contributor is putting money towards. Help encourage every potential donor and contributor to know what they are buying and want to buy it!
Photo credit to:
Money (bundle of cash) by 410 (K) 2012 via Flickr