Cynder Sinclair: Jump Start Your 2016 Fundraising With ‘Why’

Yikes, it’s a new year! Do you have a solid plan to ensure fundraising success for your nonprofit? Will it be more of the same or will you try new strategies?

Now is the prime time to take a hard look at your plan, create a clear focus, and get everyone re-engaged.

But first consider the secret ingredient: Why?

Achieving fundraising gold depends on creating and executing a good plan. Sure.

But before you even get started on your plan, check out the marketing guru, Simon Sinek. Read his blockbuster book, Start with Why. You can also hear him on TedTalks.

It All Starts with Why

Sinek’s message perfectly suits nonprofits. He points out that when describing our mission, we typically talk about what we do and how we do it.

We collect and distribute food, or we educate youth about the dangers of substance abuse, or we provide health care or concerts or art exhibits. That’s what we do.

And then we elaborate on how we do it. But we rarely highlight why we do our work. Some think the why should be obvious. But usually it’s not so clear.

Sinek says the why is the most important element and, yet, the most difficult to convey. He cautions that donors don’t give to your organization because of what you do or how you do it; they give because of why you do it.

Your purpose is what connects people emotionally to your cause. That’s what you are after.

Identifying the why for your organization is hard work, but critical to attracting supporters.

Try asking this question at your next board meeting: Why do we do our work?

Drill down deeper by continuing to ask why after each answer. It will stimulate lively discussion that may lead to nuggets for your fundraising message.

I guarantee that finding your why will electrify your board, your supporters, and you staff with newfound energy.

Don’t Look in the Obvious Places for Why

Some of the most well-known companies succeeded because they identified and promoted their why. You might be surprised at their conclusions.

Take Apple. They make great, beautifully designed computers. But that’s not their why. That’s not the reason they started their company.

“Challenging the status quo by thinking differently.” That’s their why. That has inspired customers for years.

What about Southwest Airlines. They are reliable, inexpensive, and get you where you want to go. But their why is “freedom.”

The message of freedom continues to entice customers, making Southwest the most successful airline in history.

Starbuck’s’ why is “your third place.” Not the best coffee; certainly not the quickest. They created success around your experience in their stores.

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has done a good job of finding and promoting their why. “Moving the community from hunger into health.”

This powerful message attracts more supporters every day.

In the first weeks of this New Year, I challenge you to find your organization’s why. It’s hard work; but well worth the effort. Once you identify your why, use these three tips to jump start this year’s fundraising.

A New Year Calls for a New Commitment

The start of a new year is the perfect time to re-energize your board members.

Ask a client or staff member to make a short, heart-felt presentation at the beginning of your next board meeting. The board chair then asks board members to tell why they are involved with the organization.

Once everyone is emotionally re-engaged with the mission, the development committee chair reminds everyone of the board fundraising goal, reports on progress, and then invites a few individual (pre-invited) board members to share a success story.

The chair then reminds everyone that the staff and development committee are eager to support them in any possible way.

This will help board members feel the mission, understand their role in making it possible, and recommit to their fundraising goal.

Successful Fundraising is Always a Team Sport

Successful fundraising isn’t a solo activity; it takes good teamwork.

The best team is comprised of the board chair, the development chair, the executive director, and the development director.

This highly engaged team works closely together to guide and inspire the development committee and the board to raise funds.

Working individually with each board member is critical to reaching fundraising goals.

Read this article for a sample fundraising plan individualized for each board member.

Fundraising expert, Joan Garry, suggests giving board members a card to carry in their wallet with a list of programs and ways of giving.

Plan your Work and Work your Plan

Does your organization have a clear fundraising plan? Are board and staff members actively engaged in donor identification and cultivation? How about stewardship?

The start of a new year is a great time to reevaluate your fundraising road map. Be sure each person (staff and board) knows exactly what their goal is, what their role is, and who their target audience is.

Some people are best at identifying potential donors, others are great at deepening bonds with existing donors, and others shine at stewarding relationships with long-time benefactors.

Use each person at their point of strength. Having a clear plan, a strong team and re-energized commitment will ensure your organization’s fundraising success in the New Year.

And remember . . . start by identifying your why.