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Beth Silverstein
Senior Consultant

When donor passion intersects with institutional aspiration, magic happens.  But the real magic is what it takes to get to the pinnacle of relationship where donor and cause are seamlessly, intensely aligned.

It is a well-known trend that donors are beginning to focus their giving, narrowing the number of organizations they support.  They are also looking for a very real return on their investment.  No, not a monetary return.  They are giving because they want to change the world.  They want to see the return on their investment in lives changed, communities improved, their cause(s) propelled.

In their book, “Give Smart, Philanthropy That Gets Results,” Thomas Tierney and Joel Flashman speak to this. From the donor perspective, the donor has three tangible resources to effect change – money, time and influence.  How do you ensure that your organization is doing its part to earn your donor’s investment of these finite, scarce resources?

Changing the world is a tall order.  The first step is to have a big, audacious plan.  Nonprofits need to dream the biggest dream possible and articulate that in a bold and determined way.  Every nonprofit should ask themselves: “What would my organization look like if we had all the money we could ever need?”  An inspired vision, passionate and competent leadership, a well-articulated plan and measurable outcomes are the steps toward earning your donor’s deepest investment.

Those of us who work every day to do our part to leave the world a little better than we found it know that it takes an aligned, passionate team to do so.  Your donor wants to know that you have the right leadership and a strong team.  Good governance, strong financials and, most importantly, a healthy organizational culture are everything.  For many nonprofits, staff burnout is a serious problem.  How well is the team functioning? When was the last time your executive team conducted a 360-degree review?  Is your Board engaged or are they sitting mute and listening to reports from the Executive Director?  Are you regularly asking the question “Are we getting better?”

Donors are becoming more aware of the need to invest in overhead.  As donors become more focused in their giving of their time, talent and resources, they are also realizing that nonprofits need to be able to hire a competent team and have systems in place to manage outcomes.

The first step in answering the question “Am I getting better?” is to have an actionable plan – and track it.  If you are a steward of someone else’s money, you have a great responsibility to generate, measure and constantly improve results.  What are the results you are trying to achieve? What is your strategy for achieving them?  How are you measuring progress? When measurement systems are in place, the data generated will help you make important strategic and operational decisions – and most importantly, you become a very real partner with your donor.

What you are ultimately seeking to earn is a deeper relationship and investment with and from your most important partner – your donor.  Dream the biggest dream possible; hold your feet to the fire with transparency, accountability and measurable outcomes; empower, cherish and nurture your team; steward your donor’s time, talent and treasure and never lose sight of why everyone came together in the first place… to change the world.

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