Actually, with the most awe-inspiring transformational journeys, you feel good before, during, when and after you arrive. Why? Because you’re following something that calls to you. The siren song of the calling stirs you, continually.
You, your organization, your supporters… you’re all journeying forward on a quest that takes you each where you’re pulled to go. Perhaps to find deep soul-satisfaction, of which you may not even be consciously aware. It may be a bit scary, but the fear you feel is spectacularly touched with wonder at the endless possibilities that lie ahead.
You may feel the fluttering in your belly or the stirrings in your heart. Maybe you’re afraid to take the leap, but not so much that you stop or move backward. You cannot. You’re inexorably pulled along – wanting to become the change, the hope, the transformation the world needs to experience.
The transformational journey reminds me of this poetic roadmap for navigating fear from Khalil Gibran:
It is said that before entering the sea
a river trembles with fear.
She looks back at the path she has traveled,
from the peaks of the mountains,
the long winding road crossing forests and villages.
And in front of her,
she sees an ocean so vast,
that to enter
there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.
But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.
Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.
The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.
Are you taking your supporters on a transformational journey?
We often get stuck in transactions rather than transformations. We check things off our “work” plans, then move on to the next thing on the list. It never ends. Tiresome. Enervating. Dull. Any sense of accomplishment is fleeting. Nonprofits hoping to meaningfully evolve need to consider leveraging the inspiration of “progress” vs. the somewhat tedious notion of “work.” Greg Warner of Market Smart writes about this beautifully in Why You Should Never Get a Job and Go to Work.
What if we had “progress” plans instead? Each step would move meaningfully towards the next, with purpose, gratitude and love infusing every movement. And when you connected with donors, your stance would be a philanthropic (defined as “love of humankind”) one. Not a “what have you done for us lately,” or “it’s time to hit you up for a gift.”
Transactional fundraising is why donor retention has been abysmal over the past decade.
Too often donors aren’t made to feel they accomplished much of importance. As a result, they give up. The most recent Fundraising Effectiveness Project research shows, on average, nonprofits retain less than 43% of all donors. For new donors? Less than one-fifth. But donors are not necessarily giving up on philanthropy. They’re giving up on your nonprofit. Because… what’s the point in sticking with you? It doesn’t make them feel good. It doesn’t inspire awe, wonder, purpose or joy.
What if you focused on making your donor feel good for moving your vision forward?
This means showing them how their giving creates a meaningful, positive impact – one that wouldn’t happen without them. This means sending messaging that’s all about them, not you, not how great your organization is, not what you did, not what you’re doing, and not how great the need still is. You don’t have to put your donor into the role of “savior;” you do have to help them see their place in your narrative. Show them how their support empowers those who rely on your services so they can join in the fight that will lead to transformational outcomes.
Are you emphasizing the transformational progress made possible by donor support?
Progress is what helps humans find meaning in their lives. If you don’t tell a story about progress, donors will go find another story to enter into. Elsewhere. With an organization that does a more effective job creating a transformative donor experience.
Good fundraising is transformational.
Good fundraising helps donors find meaning in their lives. The heart of your job as a nonprofit do-gooder is not to take money from folks; it’s to give folks purpose. This is why, if you’ve read or listened to me much at all, you’ll notice I constantly say: If you want gifts, you must give them.
The best fundraisers are journey guides and donor engagement experts.
Think beyond asking for and getting money in just this moment. Think beyond this trek and on to the next. Imagine strategies that will influence others to join the journey of transformation with you. And think, a lot, about the journey your would-be donors are on. They’re on an existential quest to discover their purpose. And you’re their Sherpa.
Together, you will make progress.
The best fundraisers build progress plans.
Help donors make progress on their journey towards meaning, and they’ll likely reciprocate by helping you make progress towards your mission and vision. A good progress plan screams: Exhilarating Movement and Growth Ahead! It is the antithesis of a plan that makes you sigh and dread having to implement it, one that screams: Drudgery Ahead!
Seek a path that delivers broadminded value to humanity, and feels right both for you and others. As you do this, give your donor credit for also being an actor in delivering this value. Because that’s what will ‘feel right’ for them. Stop treating donors like bystanders or bit players. If your your mission cannot move forward without philanthropic support, donors are your heart and soul. Without your donors, there’s little progress to be had.
When people ask you where you are going in the morning, you should never say, “I’m going to work.” Instead, tell them, “I’m going to make progress.”
–Greg Warner, Market Smart
Want to Get the Keys to Unlock Philanthropy?
The 7 Clairification Keys to Unlock Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising Potential offers a wealth of materials to help you develop the necessary mindset, and supporting infrastructure, to show donor-investors what’s in it for them to affiliate with you. This 42-page e-book is broken into seven sections. Each includes one or more worksheets or exercises to help you put concepts into action. Some of the worksheets are intended as individual exercises; a few are suited to groups. And you also receive a Resource Guide with a ton of useful links. If you don’t find it useful, I offer a 30-day, no-questions-asked, money back guarantee.
Image: Three San Francisco Hearts: City Sprawl; Gathering; A Boricua in San Francisco. Benefit for S.F. General Hospital Foundation.