I have the wonderful opportunity to learn from our clients and their volunteers across the country. The wonderful balance of staff and volunteer engagement makes this work rich and rewarding.
I find myself attending a Leadership Cabinet meeting almost every week. Leadership Cabinets are the community leaders we bring together to help us achieve our fundraising goals. These cabinet members help deliver relationships and make “stretch gifts” themselves as we chase our campaign goals to deliver greater impact. A typical meeting reviews our campaign progress and talks about the next key donors we will engage along with other topics such as upcoming events.
I remember one such meeting that was going very well... and then an important learning occurred.
We had completed our agenda and were enjoying a meal together when one of the volunteers said they were "having some trouble philosophically” asking for support as the organization had such a solid bottom line, funded reserves, a healthy endowment and a world-class staff team. The discussion continued and the group talked about having to be careful not to look too successful — perhaps shying away from discussing the success the organization had achieved year-over-year with a potential donor. My consultant synapses were firing when I caught the eye of a very seasoned community leader and donor. He gave me a wink and I knew the group was going to get some advice.
At the appropriate time I asked him his opinion, acknowledging he had been quiet.
He shared with the group that his family, company and family foundation have concluded there are two types of organizations — those that are needy and those that are worthy.
Needy organizations have very real financial needs and are managing on the edge. They may be doing very important work but their way forward is not well defined.
In contrast, worthy organizations have thoughtfully built systems, refined their cases and have figured out a way to be successful. Worthy organizations will deliver. A worthy organization is worth investing in. Its ROI (Return on Impact) is exceptional. He reminded the group that everyone wants to support a (worthy) winner.
Don’t shy away from your organization's success! You can still be humble, hungry and smart, even as you confidently share your organization’s positive outcomes and your donors' ROI.
* Hat tip to Pat Lencioni for "hungry, humble and smart."
Written by Bruce Berglund
Bruce Berglund, CFRE, is the founder and President of Donor by Design Group, LLC, a national firm providing comprehensive fundraising services to nonprofits, churches, community colleges and schools. Donor By Design is currently managing more than $1 billion in capital, annual and endowment campaigns. Bruce is a highly sought-after writer, speaker and teacher.