On a recent visit to Manhattan, I had breakfast with an exceptionally generous person.
He’d just made a $15-million gift to a non-profit organization. Not only that, but he’d also given an equal amount to his church.
This individual is hardworking and humble. He built a business that did very well, and when he sold it, he wanted to share the proceeds with organizations that aligned with his deep personal values.
Between bites of omelette, I asked him why he’d decided to support the specific cause he’d given to. I expected to hear that he’d done a lot of research, crunched the numbers, and satisfied himself that the financial plan was sound.
He told me:
“I got a letter in the mail with a picture and a story of a little girl. It broke my heart. I knew I had to do something.”
I was blown away — and I’ve been thinking about his response ever since.
So today, what I want to pass on to you is this:
Never forget the pure, simple, wonderful, inspirational message of what your organization does.
Tell that story over and over. Don’t let your story get lost in the complexities of your work or your desire to communicate every single aspect of what you do.
If the purpose of fundraising is to gratify ourselves with the difficult work that we’re doing, then yes, we could make a case for sharing a multitude of details about issues and context and strategic priorities and so on. But if our purpose is to raise money for the cause, then let’s focus on pure, simple, impact.
Because in the end, it’s about how you’re changing people’s lives and creating a better world. It’s about your essential “why,” as Simon Sinek says.
Tell your story. Share the basic need. Show your donors how they can respond.