Shoulder to Shoulder

Transformational Gifts Are Not Always the Largest Gifts

Transformational gifts are not always the largest gifts. Sometimes a commitment made at the right time – early in a project, or perhaps when a campaign is stalled – can be transformational.

When funding for a project is unclear, or when funders are not coming through with commitments, confidence can decline. On a team this often manifests itself in the form of more meetings, lack of team cohesion, and increased turnover. We cannot overstate the importance of confidence – for individuals, for your advancement team, for your complete enterprise.  

The nonprofit sector is the largest sector of our economy. We would love to be able to calculate the lost productivity, or lost output, due to uncertainty, fear, or simply a lack of clarity that arises from (or, in many cases, produces) a lack of funding. 

We’ve witnessed how a gift commitment at the right time can provide more than just momentum – it can transform a team and an enterprise. It can validate the vision and trigger a state of flow in an organization. In the funding function, this translates into increased confidence in the story, more presentations, more asks, and more revenue.

There are times when we can share the internal uncertainty with a funder – to talk about the impact the commitment could have on the psychology of the team.  Any funder that’s ever had to lead will understand the importance of validation, clarity, and the morale boost that follows.

In a way we’re saying, “Your impact is not only going to be on the kids, or homes, or projects.  It’s going to have a very, very real impact on our team. They have been putting in long hours, fighting for this plan.”

It takes a particular command and control to share this kind of message with a funder. It’s not about showing weakness. It’s… a real opportunity to transform. This is the kind of thing we mean when we talk about being ‘a real partner’ with the funder and standing ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’.  

So, transformational gifts can be about something other than huge gifts that give scale; they can be about well-timed funding commitments that give confidence. Confidence and team-cohesion is TRANSFORMATIONAL.

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Where Do We Find NEW Prospects?

In our work with thousands of organizations, staff and volunteers, this is the most FREQUENTLY ASKED (BIG, BIG, BIG) QUESTION:

“WHERE DO WE FIND NEW PROSPECTS?”

MY ANSWER: THIS IS THE WRONG QUESTION!!!

It’s not about ‘NEW’ PROSPECTS, it’s about the BEST PROSPECTS!

Why look for ‘New’ Prospects when you haven’t MAXIMIZED RELATIONSHIPS with your BEST and most QUALIFIED PROSPECTS!

FUNDING YOUR VISION is usually about your TOP 33 INVESTORS and perhaps your BEST 300 QUALIFIED PROSPECTS. Many of these top prospects are most likely sitting right in front of you… right now! (Not literally, but pretty darn close.)

The reason many of you are looking for ‘NEW’ prospects is because you believe:

“Our Old Prospects are tired of giving.”

“We have gone to the well too many times.”

“We can’t go back to our best prospects for more money.”

“We are taking advantage of our current relationship with our top prospects.”

To this, I would add 3 other thoughts coming from your current top givers that I also believe are very fair:

“I want you to get other people involved besides me.”

“I want you to broaden the base of support.”

“I don’t want to be the only one funding this organization or this project.”

While ‘expanding your base’ and ‘bringing in new relationships’ is important to your organization, it’s not the ‘ANSWER’ to your funding challenges!!!

I’d like to challenge your thinking with this idea: LOOK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD!

Stop ‘searching the world’ for new prospects/ fresh money. Before you figure out how to get to Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or the Walton’s…look to your own CHAMPIONS who have the strongest interest in your Cause and your Case.

Here are 3 stories to reinforce this idea of ‘YOUR OWN BACKYARD’.

Russell H. Conwell wrote one of the most powerful and motivational classics of all time, Acres of Diamonds, published in 1921. Conwell actually gave his speech entitled “ACRES OF DIAMONDS” more than 5,000 times and earned enough in this effort to help found Temple University!
Here are summarized versions of 3 STORIES in the book that I hope will have a huge IMPACT on your thinking about ‘NEW’ PROSPECTS.

GOLD. In 1847, a man who owned a ranch in Northern California heard that gold had been discovered somewhere in Southern California. He sold his ranch to a Colonel Sutter, and then went south to search for gold and riches, never to return.

Colonel Sutter put a mill on that stream. One day, he discovered flakes of gold in the spill off. Sutter’s discovery, in 1849, started the CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH!

DIAMONDS. An old Persian farmer was desperate for riches. He sold his farm, collected his money, left his family and went off in into the garden to drink. As the camel put his nose in the shallow water of the garden brook, the new owner saw a flash of brilliance and reached in and pulled out a diamond (in the rough). This discovery became the famous diamond mine of GOLCONDA!

OIL. In Pennsylvania, another farmer sold his farm to take a job with his cousin, who was looking for coal oil in Canada. He, too, was searching for wealth… in other places.
According to the county records, the farmer sold his farm for $833.

The new owner found oil… on that same farm. That oil was eventually worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and this discovery became the PENNSYLVANIA OIL FIELDS!

I hope the moral in all of these stories are clear and evident.

Read more On Prospects in our For Impact Guidebook, Gold Diamonds and Oil.

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