If I only had a heart . . .

There are 9-keys to “inspiring and managing yours board for fundraising success”. In fact, the reality is that these 9-keys are the same nine things you need to do to “engage” anyone in anything. However, I believe that these nine concepts are not all equal. While all are important, I have come to realize that the most important and most difficult engagement tool was best summed up by the “Wizard of Oz’s” Tim Man in this YouTube video.

The most important engagement tool in your nonprofit toolbox in my humble opinion is “MISSION-FOCUS”.

I personally learned this lesson more than 7-years ago when one of my more influential board volunteers (I’ll omit his name for privacy purposes, but let’s just say he was really good with other people’s money) resigned from the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin’s board of directors. While he resigned for personal reasons and still supported the Club, I didn’t see the train wreck coming until it was too late.

This board volunteer was infamous for taking 15+ prospects’ pledge cards as part of the annual campaign every year. His reasoning seemed sound: 1) they were clients of his, 2) they were friends of his, and 3) he had always solicited these donors. I’d be lying if I tried to tell you that I ever tried to talk him out of being such an overachiever. However, in hindsight I wish that I had.

The first year this individual wasn’t on our board, we tried to redistribute his annual campaign prospects to other volunteers. I finally understood how big of a fool I had been when my phone rang a few weeks after our annual campaign kickoff meeting. The call came in from one of our more steady donors who had always been solicited by this former board volunteer.

The call started off nice enough. “Hi . . . how are you . . . how are things down at the Club?” However, pleasant conversation quickly turned into a cross-examination: “why is so-and-so calling me for my annual campaign pledge this year . . . what happened to he-who-I-loved-to-get-solicited-by . . . is there something wrong at the Club whereby he just walked away from your board of directors?” And as if that wasn’t enough to cause me to run to the restroom and vomit, most of the calls ended with the donor talking to me like I was a kindergartener and telling me that they didn’t donate to the Club because of our mission but because of who had been asking.

The lesson I painfully learned was that stewardship was very important in the resource development process. Successful stewardship and relationship building meant transitioning a donor-relationship from their the volunteer-solicitor connection to a love affair with the organization’s mission. While it might not happen overnight, working on it symbolized a commitment to sustainability and a donor-centered paradigm. The Tin Man was 100% correct when he sang about the value of his heart.

Being “MISSION-FOCUSED” goes beyond stewardship . . . here are just a few ideas for infusing mission in everything you do at your non-profit organization:

  1. Host your board meetings, committee meetings and fundraising meeting at your service facility as a way of reminding everyone what their volunteer time commitments are all about.
  2. Focus newsletter content on return on investment messaging and all things related to your agency’s mission. Skip the boring advertisements for the next opportunity to make a contribution.
  3. Don’t let your annual campaign volunteer solicitors go on important solicitations by themselves. Staff should do everything possible to get invited on important solicitations and ensure: 1) the ask is not being done in a “quid pro quo” manner and 2) mission-oriented reasons are infused throughout the solicitation call.
  4. Find ways to bring the idea of your clients into important meetings. For example, ask agency clients to participate in an essay contest about what they value most about your organization, its programs and mission. Share those essays with board volunteers, fundraising volunteers and donors.
  5. Incorporate a “mission moment” into ALL MEETINGS as a way to keep the focus on why you’re asking others to do what they do.

Failure to inject “MISSION-FOCUS” into all of your meetings and fundraising campaigns can be disastrous. It can lead to volunteer-fatigue and donor turnover. It can create a sense of disengagement that results in staff doing everything. Do I need to go on? Come onĀ  . . . if a Tim Man can get it, then surely we all understand the importance of this concept. Right?

I can go on and on, but I’d rather you share with your fellow DonorDreams blog subscribers what you do to maintain a healthy dose of “MISSION-FOCUS” in everything you do. Please use the comment box below to share your example because we can all learn from each other. There are no right or wrong answers. Please jump in.

Here is to your health!

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


    1. I miss you, Paula! Thanks for the “atta-boy”. I received your note yesterday as I was in the car and on the road for the first time in months to go pitch a capital campaign feasibility study proposal. It made my day. THANKS!

  1. We have had a couple of days here where the some of the kids seem disconnected. Some of the 9-year-old-ish girls were following the female unit director around like lost puppies. Finally, trying to find a project for them, she asked them to think about why they came to the club and what they liked. After they completed this, then they could type it up on the computer and print it out. Simple enough task. She mentioned this to me in passing – ANYWAY I got the first of what I hope is many more pages. this little girl wrote a simple succinct and heartfelt testimony on what the Club means to her. We don’t often have actual mission moments but we will at our next board meeting! I will read her essay (she won’t be out of school at our noon meeting) and remind those in attendance that THAT is the reason for what we do. And I will keep looking for those nuggets to share to keep us focused.

    1. Vikki . . . I LOVE IT! I did kind of the same thing one year. I asked staff to run an essay contest at the Club. If memory serves me correctly, kids were asked to write an answer to this simple question: “If Santa Claus could bring the Club a present, what should that one present be?” We got 60 or 70 essays and they were priceless because it represented how the kids saw their Boys & Girls Club from a “needs and wishes” presepective. I hung all of those essays on the walls around the board room for our December meeting. I shouldn’t have been amazed (but I was) at the response we got from board members. It was magical. GREAT IDEA . . . and as always thanks for sharing it with the group.

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