I don’t usually do this, but today I’m incorporating the full text of a recent blog by Seth Godin.
It’s not about philanthropy or fundraising. Or, is it?
He says it’s about ‘goodwill,’ or the lack thereof. What it costs you to lose it.
I say – you really should read what he says and take it to heart if you want to be sustainable over the long haul.
Let me explain.
First, let’s look at the definition of goodwill:
a : a kindly feeling of approval and support : benevolent interest or concern people of goodwill;
b : the favor or advantage that a business has acquired especially through its brands and its good reputation
Next, let’s look at the definition of philanthropy:
goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially : active effort to promote human welfare
Your organization is a goodwill factory. Or it’s not.
Your organization has a culture of philanthropy. Or it doesn’t.
Without goodwill and a culture of philanthropy, you’re not going to achieve anywhere near as much as you could or should.
Very few nonprofits have in their strategic plan a goal to “build goodwill and a culture of philanthropy.”
Here’s what Seth has to say:
Anyone who has done the math will tell you that word of mouth is the most efficient way to gain trust, spread the word and grow.
It only takes a moment to destroy. Only a few sentences, a heartless broken promise, a lack of empathy, and it’s gone. Not only that, but the lost connection can easily lead to lawsuits.
Doctor, the surgery seems to have gone wrong!
It’s not my fault. I did a perfect job. Tough luck.
Architect, the floor is sagging, the beams were put in the wrong direction!
I don’t care. There’s a three-year statute of limitations, and even then, it wasn’t my job to ensure that the work met the plans.
Airline, my two-year-old can’t sit in a row by herself, and the agent on the phone said you’d work it so we could sit together!
It’s not my fault. If you don’t want to get on the plane, don’t get on the plane.
In all three cases, there are significant operational barriers to magically fixing the problem. But that’s not where the breakdown happened. It happened because a human being decided to not care. Not care and not express anything that felt like caring.
A human being, perhaps intimidated by lawyers, or tired after a hard day, or the victim of a bureaucracy (all valid reasons) then made the stupid decision to not care.
By not caring, by not expressing any empathy, this individual denied themselves their own humanity. By putting up a brick wall, they isolate themselves. Not only do they destroy any hope for word of mouth, they heap disrespect on someone else. By working so hard to not engage (in the vain hope that this will somehow keep them clean), they end up in the mud, never again to receive the benefit of the doubt.
What kind of day or week or career is that? To live in a lucite bubble, keeping track only of individuals defeated and revenue generated?
It turns out that while people like to have their problems fixed, what they most want is to be seen and to be cared about.
Of course you should use these fraught moments to reinforce connections and build word of mouth. Of course you should realize that in fact people like us get asked to recommend airlines and doctors and architects all the time, but now, we will never ever recommend you to anyone, in fact, we’ll go out of our way to keep people from choosing you.
But the real reason you should extend yourself in these moments when it all falls apart is that this is how you will measure yourself over time. What did you do when you had a chance to connect and to care?
Maybe it’s time to seriously assess your culture.
Sustainable philanthropy takes a village. It’s a communal endeavor. Not just from the outside/in, but from the inside/out.
Rather than asking only what your supporters can do for you, what about asking what you can do for them? Heck, while you’re at it, what about asking what you can do for other staff on your team? Your entire team, not just your department.
Want to know what it takes to destroy your nonprofit’s reputation as a force of goodness in the world? To destroy the good work of nonprofit development staff endeavoring to build strong relationships and loyal bonds with donors who want to change the world?
- One rude receptionist.
- One program staffer who doesn’t return phone calls promptly.
- One colleague who says ‘that’s not my job.’
- One fundraiser who neglects to debrief their CEO after s/he meets with major donors, thereby failing to capture important information that might inform a subsequent proposal that really floats that donor’s boat.
- One co-worker who insists ‘that’s not my priority.’
Is your organization filled with ‘people of goodwill?’
When given the chance, does everyone in your organization connect and care?
Your culture of philanthropy, or lack thereof, may just be your organization’s most definitive asset.
If you’re taking the lead to make culture of philanthropy a priority, please share what’s working/not working. We can all learn together.
Speaking of Leading People of Goodwill…
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