And the Oscar goes to . . .

On Sunday night, I found myself at an Oscar party with some of my favorite local non-profit mavens. There was great food, great wine, and great company. I’m thrilled to report that I won the “voting contest” and walked away from the party with some very nice parting gifts. However, more so than anything else, I came away from Sunday with an epiphany about Hollywood and philanthropy.

This epiphany started with the realization that most of the films nominated for Best Picture were set in the past and a celebration of “where we’ve been” rather than future focused and a look at “where we’re going”. I thought  . . . “Hmmmm, the film industry is like a mirror and reflects the mood and values of our society.”

At this point, I started wondering about what Hollywood has captured in past years on the big screen about non-profits, charitable giving, donors, and philanthropy. So, I of course Googled it and surprisingly found very little on the subject until I used the following search words: “movies about giving back”. Ah ha . . . eureka! As you can imagine, there are a number of movies that are either themed or have threads of “giving back” as part of their plot.

In April 2011, FilmBuff blog shared what they thought were the top five films about “giving back”:

  1. Pay It Forward
  2. It’s a Wonderful Life
  3. Milk
  4. Young Mr. Lincoln
  5. Exit Through The Gift Shop

My very next thought took me back to the final scene in It’s a Wonderful Life, when George Bailey is in his living room surrounded by all of his friends and neighbors and they are supporting him and “giving back”. It made me think that movies aren’t just mirrors, but so are the people who surrounded us . . . and . . . for non-profit organizations those people are our donors.

This thought smacked me upside the head and the following questions rushed forwarded:

  • What do your donors look like? Are they men or women? Are they white-collar or blue-collar? Are they old or young?
  •  What are those donors telling you? Are they saying that you solicit them too often or not enough? Are they asking lots of questions about what you do with their dollars?
  • How often do your donors stick around? Have they been giving to your agency for a long time or do many of them just give to you once?
  • What would your community look like if your non-profit organization had never been born?

The reality of the situation for many philanthropy driven non-profit organizations is that donors represent the real life motion picture films unfolding all around us. So, without the benefit of filming those interactions, how does your agency capture those pictures? Is your donor database like a video camera? Do you use tools like interviews, focus groups and surveys much like film directors use scripts, storyboards, and dress rehearsals?

If you are “recording” all of these things, then what are you doing with the information? Are you folding it into your resource development planning process? Are you using it to adjust your strategies and tactics? Are you using it to engage others around your mission? Are you monitoring and tracking your results? If so, what have been your results?

Lots of questions today! Do you have some of the answers? If so, please scroll down and share them by using the comment box.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to ask . . . What is your favorite movie of all times that deals with non-profits, charitable giving, donors, philanthropy or giving back?

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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