What have you done to justify your existence?
I had a boss, years ago, who liked to walk around and ask staff that question.
It was obnoxious, to be sure. I think it was meant to keep us on our toes. (Like we had time to stand up?)
But it didn’t do much for staff morale. Because who really likes their existence challenged?
So this is hard to say. But in a way, we do need to think about a similar question all the time. Not about ourselves, but about our organizations.
Is our work needed? Do we do what we say we do? Can we be trusted?
What’s the right answer?
I often see appeals, reports, and newsletters celebrating how much money an organization has raised. This happens with large organizations and small ones.
And of course, I understand the excitement. I’m a fundraiser. I know it’s hard work – and celebrations are great.
But when a donor wonders, “What will they do with my money?” then “We raised a lot of money!” isn’t the right answer.
What they really want to know
Think about it this way. Your car isn’t running right. You take it to a mechanic.
What are your concerns?
Do you care how much money the mechanic made last year? I doubt it.
Chances are, you want to know:
- Was my car is fixed right?
- Did they charge a fair price – was it a good value?
- Was I treated well?
That’s what your donors are wondering, too.
- Did the organization accomplish what it said it would when it asked me for money? (This covers both the “fixed right” and “value” questions.)
- How does the organization make me feel?
- Am I important to them?
- Do they thank me well? Did my last gift mean anything?
- Do they keep me informed about what my gift accomplished?
Those are the questions you want to answer all the time. Weave those answers through everything you send out.
Your donors understand that it’s money that pushes your mission forward. But they want to know about their impact.
What did their money do?
I understand it’s hard to raise money. So inside the office, jumping around, bumping fists and having a party are all great.
But your fundraising results aren’t important outside your office.
Your fundraising results are a means to an end.
Donors want to know: did we reach that end? Did my gift make any difference?
There are two reasons fundraising is one of the most important things your organization does.
- To fund your program work.
- To involve people outside the inner circle in the mission.
There’s so much you and your colleagues do to make your mission possible and to bring money in. All those activities are important!
But not all those activities are interesting to your donors.
They assume you’re working hard. They want to know if their gift makes them part of the team. They want to know if they matter.
You’re not interested in whether your mechanic kept himself occupied all day. You just want to know if your car is fixed right, for a fair price, and on time.
So when you talk to donors, think about accomplishments. What changed because they gave?
Let them know – better yet, let them feel what they accomplished.
Then go ahead and celebrate with your colleagues. You deserve it!
Photo by Ryan McGuire of Gratisography