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Know Your Value

We all know the organizations we work for are valuable.  However, others often fail to see the value we see.  For any organization that can be a significant problem.  For nonprofits, that means limited or indifferent supporters, which implies limited sustainability and high vulnerability during economic or other crises.

I was recently asked, “What does Mission Enablers do?”  My response was, “We help struggling nonprofits return to vitality and keep failing nonprofits from closing.”  The other person’s response was, “Nonprofits are the backbone of our social safety net.  We should let the weaklings fail.  With those organizations gone, we can redirect our support to those who are better able to use the funds.  It would ensure our support is used effectively and the backbone would be stronger.  Why should the incompetent be allowed to survive?”

Besides demonstrating the fragility of ‘elevator speeches’, it also points out that one needs to ensure that their value statement resonates with the listener.  In addition, it caused me to ask myself two questions:

What is it that Mission Enablers does that others depend on?

and

How does the answer to that question differ from one listener to another?

Clearly, the person I was talking to sees every little value in saving nonprofits who are having a hard time.  However, he wants there to be a strong web of nonprofits in our social safety net.  He knows that the strength of the safety net depends on the strength of each nonprofit and its prudent use of the resources it has.  Therefore, I should have said something like, “We ensure the nonprofits in our social safety net are as strong and effective as possible.”  Perhaps he would have seen how we meet a need that is important to him and would have seen our value.  Besides, the rephrasing is more in tune with our mission statement: Enable others to create a better world.

People want value but we all define value based on how well something satisfies our needs.  Since he was unable to see how my expression of value met his needs, he felt we were more harmful than helpful.  Had I focused on him rather than Mission Enablers, I would have discovered his need, told him how we help meet one of his needs, and he would have discovered our value.

Next Step:

Talk about the needs your mission and nonprofit meet

Let others determine your nonprofit and mission’s value based upon how well you are able to meet their needs

Connect your nonprofit and mission to a stakeholder’s entire area of need (practical, emotional, social, and spiritual/higher purpose)

Since most people are less frank than my listener was, it is hard to know when we miss a golden opportunity to recruit a supporter.  Therefore, think about how to talk about the needs your mission meets rather than the value your mission provides.  The needs of one group of stakeholders are very different from another.  For example, your nonprofit meets the employment needs of your staff, which is why they were looking for a job when you recruited them.  Your staff also needs an outlet for its compassion and concern for others, which is why they choose your nonprofit for employment.  Your nonprofit meets the practical needs of others.  Your mission meets the social, emotional, and spiritual/higher purpose needs of others.  The more connections you can make to someone else’s needs the more durable and enthusiastic they will be about supporting your nonprofit and mission, which leads to increased sustainability.

Take It Further:

Track the evolving needs of each stakeholder group

Use the generosity, growth, and loyalty of each stakeholder group to determine how well your nonprofit meets the needs of the group

Keep in synch with the evolving needs of your stakeholder groups when you express your nonprofit’s and mission’s ability to meet needs

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