Bragging Versus Mission

Nonprofits are valuable to their communities.  They do many wonderful things and they should be proud of what they do.  However, it is unseemly to brag yet many unintentionally do.

Think about the most recent nonprofit newsletter you received.  It probably opens by talking about an activity (new center that opened, fundraiser held, etc.) that took place.  Maybe it talks about the number of people served and the services performed.  It also probably tells you about the nonprofit’s need for additional support.  Somewhere in it, it also says thanks for your support.

Maybe you were shown a picture of a youth group gathering 5,000 cans and boxes of dry goods for a shipment to a disaster zone along with a brief story about the day’s activities.  After reading, if you have no idea how the victims were served, how the promise of the mission was fulfilled by the activities, what impact the activities might have had on the youth or those who received the food, or what the next step might be then the mission is missing.  Potentially, both the youth and recipients benefited.  Potentially, this was the foundational step in a heroic plan.  If it is the start of a heroic effort, it could inspire support.  If millions were displaced by the disaster, the report might seem to the donors like trying to bail the ocean with a spoon.  In this case, some donors might see it as futile and look for another way to make a difference.  Without more information, it seems like the nonprofit is bragging about an activity without substance.

Nonprofits accomplish many wonderful feats because of the support of donors.  Donors want to know about those feats even when it is a minor feat that leads to something bigger.  Donors know that it takes a lot of bricks to build a wall.  They need to be reminded that a wall is being built, progress is being made, and the wall will protect or support something that is important to the donors.  Shipping 500 boxes of food is the same as taking delivery of 1 ton of bricks.  A pile of bricks is meaningless but when your clients learn how to build 10 more feet of wall that is important to the clients’ future success and self-sufficiency.

What the clients learn while building the wall is something that is meaningful, measurable, and durable.  The sustainability of the accomplishment increases the sustainability of the mission.  If you want your newsletters to contribute to the sustainability of your mission and funding stream, the newsletters must be about the meaningful, measurable, and durable (sustainable) accomplishments of your clients and mission since your last newsletter.

Your clients achieved the accomplishments.  Your programing enabled your clients to achieve the accomplishments.  The donors care about the clients and their accomplishments.  The donors know your programing made the accomplishments possible so reminding them of the programing is unnecessary.  Your donors are emotionally connected to your clients and their accomplishments.  Reporting on the clients and accomplishments keeps the emotional connection strong.  It is the emotional connection that drives donor generosity and loyalty.

Next Step:

Make your mission and clients the focus of all communications

Report on what your clients have accomplished (milestones, results, and outcomes)

Include anecdotes (to keep donor emotions engaged) and statistics (to keep the accomplishments credible) in your reporting

When your reporting is about the accomplishments of your clients and the effectiveness of your mission, it will be easier to keep your donors emotionally engaged and your community aware of the value of your nonprofit.

When donor are told about how they helped enable the accomplishments, they feels like they contributed to something important, they feel appreciated, and they feel their support is important.  Saying “Thank You” is less important than making someone feel valuable, appreciated, and important.

Take It Further:

Measure the success of your newsletters by the change in your donors’ emotional engagement


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