Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of standing up for what’s right, even when it isn’t convenient. There is so much happening in the world around us today, and at such an unprecedented, rapid pace, it’s sometimes challenging to make sense of it all. And, in particular, our place in it all. How will we face the world of 2018 and beyond? What challenges will we take on, and how? What can we do as individuals, as groups, as organizations, and as a community to adapt, stay positive and make a beneficial impact on the world within and around us — ourselves, our families, our friends, our neighbors and strangers. What can we do, especially, to protect and defend and care for the most vulnerable among us? What can we do that is not just transactional, but transformational?
“The time is always right to do what is right.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
I have a dream for 2018 – and beyond. I have a dream this is the year your organization will move beyond defining yourself by what you’re not (nonprofit) and will begin to define yourself by what you are (social benefit). I have a dream this is the year your people will move from an attitude of taking and hitting people up (aka “fundraising”) to a mindset of giving and lifting people up (aka “philanthropy”). I have a dream this is the year your staff and volunteers will move from enacting transactions to enabling transformation.
I have a dream you will push yourself and your organization this year. You will take the bull by the horns, adapt to the digital revolution and open yourself to the possibilities change brings. You will give up on the static donor pyramid, ladder and funnel theory of engagement and put your donor at the center of a new, active engagement model that reflects the myriad ways people connect with organizations and causes today. You will find donors where they are.
I have a dream you will learn who your best influencers and advocates are and you will embrace them. You will recognize you are no longer your best messenger. You will understand many forces beyond you influence your donor’s decision to invest with you, and you will expand your thinking and operations from a one-dimensional to a multi-dimensional model. You will allow your constituents to engage with you at multiple points of entry, and to move freely between these points during the life cycle of their engagement.
I have a dream you will think big, because thinking small will not get you where you need to go. You will understand there is great power in a big, wildly exciting vision. You will share this vision broadly to attract people — and financial resources — to your cause. You will no longer be content to remain a “well-kept secret.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
I have a dream you will ask not what your donors can do for you, but what you can do for your donors. You will recognize they don’t serve you; you serve them. They don’t owe you; you owe them. Your job is to help them experience the joy of giving. It is through you they will achieve their most meaningful work. You will embrace the true meaning of philanthropy as love of humankind. You will remember your donors are humankind; you must love them if you want to be a part of philanthropy. Otherwise, you’re just transacting business.
I have a dream you will reevaluate your raison d’etre. You will ask yourself whether you’re in the business of selling, and you won’t answer cavalierly. You will not pat yourself on the back for being different than your for profit brethren. You will not tell yourself nonprofits are about mission, values and doing good deeds; whereas for profits are about greed and sales. You will reevaluate why people compare ‘making the ask’ to ‘making the sale.’
I have a dream you will embrace your role as salesperson, understanding how fundamentally human this is. You will understand that ‘selling’ (the very definition of which is ‘to exchange or deliver for money or its equivalent’) is something we’re all constantly doing. And you will have an “ah ha” moment that this is also what ‘fundraising’ is about — a value-for-value exchange. A donor gives something of value (money or an in-kind good or service) and the charity returns something of value to the donor. As Daniel Pink writes in his book To Sell Is Human “the ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness. It has helped our species evolve, lifted our living standards, and enhanced our daily lives. The capacity to sell isn’t some unnatural adaption to the merciless world of commerce. It is part of who we are.”
“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
I have a dream you will come from a place of love, not need. When interacting with your supporters you will do more than tell folks how much money you require. You will consider how your supporters benefit and what’s in it for them if they invest with you. You will help people to value your accomplishments by assuring they understand your impact. You will develop systems for collecting and sharing countless stories about your impact. You will recognize if you don’t demonstrate impact, then you can’t expect folks to worry what might happen were you to be unable to grow or, even worse, cease to exist.
I have a dream you will speak to peoples’ hearts; not just their heads. You will become aware that if the bulk of your communication with supporters is about numbers, finances and pie charts rather than stories of real people being helped, it will become increasingly difficult to expect anyone to care enough about your mission to invest in your success. You absolutely must clarify your stories and share them.
I have a dream your leaders will embrace a culture of philanthropy that engulfs your entire organization. You will eliminate silos and include everyone in the transformative power of your mission. You will make sure everyone associated with your organization is clear about the values you enact and has stories they can tell about the ways you help to repair our world. Philanthropy will become the glue that binds everyone together – every department and every volunteer – working towards a common goal.
“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
I have a dream you will have a bias toward action. You will not sit back and rest on your laurels or content yourself with the status quo. You will understand that, while change is hard, when you stop growing you die. You will be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. You will see there is much more good to be done, and you are the one to do it. In fact, you are the one to lead it!
I have a dream you will get, and stay, in touch with your passion. You will talk to people you help. You will visit your programs. You will talk to donors and learn why they are so invested with your cause. You will “get religion” in order to be able to “preach religion.”
I have a dream you will engage in philanthropy; not fundraising. You will embrace the fact that just as business has changed fundamentally, so must fundraising change fundamentally. You will accept we’re all social businesses now; merely “transacting” no longer cuts it. You will agree that for too long fundraising has been approached as transactional – as being primarily about money – and this approach results in fundraising being seen at best as an onerous chore; a necessary evil. You will see that philanthropy is fundamentally social; it’s about love — and nothing could be more transformational.
“Hatred paralyses life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have a dream for 2018– and beyond. Do you share my dream?
One Week Left
Want to apply this dream — this culture of philanthropy philosophy — to securing more and bigger gifts this year for your nonprofit? This is your LAST WEEK to register for my popular 8-week E-Course: Winning Major Gifts Strategies for the small and medium-size shop. No more “hitting people up.” We’ll talk about setting achievable goals, finding the right folks, meeting them, moving them along a continuum and, ultimately, inspiring folks to join you in your mission. You’ll love this course — or your money back. Register by midnight PST January 20th to reserve your spot!
This article has been modified from an article originally published January 24, 2013 on Clairification.