A friend recently pointed me to a blog posting entitled In Defense of Raising Money: A Manifesto for NonProfit CEOs written by a man by the name of Sasha Dichter. Now you may think that sounds like a very boring topic, but if you care about any cause – be it eradicating poverty, health care reform, the arts, AIDS, historic preservation, you name it – read this manifesto. It is a powerful piece that talks about how your dream and passion has to be bigger than your ego. Just a sampling…
Spending your time talking to powerful, influential people about the change you hope to see in the world is a pretty far cry from having fundraising as a “necessary evil.”
Do you really believe that the “real work” is JUST the “programs” you operate? (the school you run; the meals you serve; the vaccines you develop; the patients you treat?) Do you really believe that it ends there? Do you really believe that in today’s world, where change can come from anyone and anywhere, that convincing people and building momentum and excitement and a movement really doesn’t matter?
Of course your programs or investments are real work. But so is evangelizing, communicating, sharing, convincing, cajoling, and arm-twisting. So are videos and images and stories and ideas.
If your ideas and programs and people and vision are so great, shouldn’t people be willing to reach into their pockets and fund them? If it’s worth spending your life doing this work, shouldn’t you or someone in your organization be able to convince someone else that the work is worth supporting?
In the for-profit world, nothing happens if you don’t have a compelling product with a compelling story that wins out in the marketplace of ideas and gets people to act. People get so excited about Apple’s products that they blog about the next release, scour the Internet for registered patents, spread ideas and rumors about what is coming next, and convince the people around them that Apple = cool. Do you think this would happen without Steve Jobs living and breathing the brand each and every day?
So how is it that in the nonprofit sector we create this illusion that growth and change and impact can happen absent this kind of energy and engagement?
There’s this unspoken idea floating around that “fundraisers” can go about their work in a vacuum, having quiet, unimportant conversations with nameless, faceless rich people, while all the while the people who do the real work (the program folks) can go about their business, separate from and unconnected to this conversation.
What a waste.
Don’t you think that creating a tribe of connected, engaged, passionate evangelists for your cause will create a positive feedback loop that will amplify the change you hope to see in the world? It doesn’t matter if that tribe is 300 powerful, smart, wealthy people or 3 million regular folks who believe in you and the change you hope to make. If they are passionate and engaged and you give them a way to help, you will amplify your impact.
Sasha Dichter writes that storytelling is a skill, and all good nonprofit CEOs have to be storytellers. I read this on the same night I was reminded of the story-telling skills of our President Elect. Watch this great video – made at Obama’s final pre-election rally held about an hour from our house in Prince William County, Virginia. It is a great story, but more importantly it shows the power of one person filled with passion and zeal.
More to come…