Dear nonprofit

[Here’s the link to yesterday’s letter: Dear (potential) donor]

Dear nonprofit,

Speak up for yourself!  Don’t play the supplicant, tin cup in hand, hoping that some change will fall from that purse (or that pocket).  Your time is precious and the playing field is level.  You offer something of great value, both to the beneficiaries of your work and to your (potential) supporters.

Believe that and start treating yourself with the respect you deserve.  Believe that and start treating your potential supporters with the respect they deserve.   Be clear what you’re talking about and why, state out loud your hopes and expectations for where this conversation is going, risk saying early on what your goals are – knowing full well that the whole thing might crash and burn because you had the nerve to say something out loud that others were thinking.

It is true that the best partnerships take time to develop, that they can meander and take surprising twists and turns, that it’s not usually a straight line from here to there.  So be open, be generous, explore and share your dreams.

But by all means act like an equal partner in the endeavor, because you have so much to offer.

Sincerely yours,

Your (potential) donor

3 thoughts on “Dear nonprofit

  1. This is so spot-on that I have to comment.
    I’m an attorney, and I have represented a lot of non-profits. So many of my clients have whined and cringed before potential donors!
    One particularly noxious example is a big Christian monastery. These men are supposed to, and profess to, believe in a whole galaxy of values, including the idea that prayer is of value to the world, and including the idea that merely being rich means….not a lot. But wait! When someone who is genuinely wealthy shows up at the monastery, how quickly all that turns around! The guy is suddenly A Great Saint, and tales are told of his supposed virtues.
    Among its other vices, this approach doesn’t really net them a lot of donations. People will donate to such an enterprise only if they first, share the belief that money isn’t everything, and second, see that the monks are embodying their supposed beliefs in their own lives. That’s inspiring. This other approach is not. (People who have a lot of money are typically very sophisticated, and recognize the begging hand immediately, if only because this happens to them a lot.)
    I used to donate my own services to this place, but I don’t any more. Now I charge them. They are not spiritual enough to be able to receive a gift and value it; only when I send them a bill do they follow my advice.

  2. Susan: amazing isn’t it, how easy it is to fall into this trap? There’s no doubt that the best thing to do, both philosophically and practically, is to meet people as equals!

  3. I manage a professional services NFP which services over 400 other NFPs. The single most powerful thing a NFP can do is have a very clear, confident, transparent (and narrow) purpose. The moment a NFP grovels for money, it is in trouble. If your passion has value, others will value it also… and some will value it enough to put their hand in their pocket. Valuing those that value you builds partnership! Most NFP’s know this in theory, but won’t commit the resourses to behave like it.

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