I have been touched over the years by the HUGE HEARTS of so many CEO’s who head successful not-for-profts.
These men and women are running successful organizations in spite of so many tough challenges… a down economy, unexpected catastrophes and a philanthropic community, both public and private that has been retrenching at a rapid pace. Still these leaders move forward, not only serving the those in need, but so often they do it with a happiness and cheerfulness that doesn’t seem possible.
These leaders “put on a happy face.” With a smile they tell the staff, those in need, as well as their board and supporters that things are going GREAT. As wonderful as this happy face and cheerfulness is to both the staff and those they serve the fact is that there are certain people that you need to be more truthful with… the people writing the checks.
If you are an executive director or president of a charity or not for profit group, do not fall into the trap of telling your donors only the good news. Don’t get me wrong there is a place for the “good news”… that is what your newsletter and annual report should do. In addition, your website should be updated daily with the good news, great testimonies from those who have been help by your organizations.
However, in your solicitation meetings and written appeals donors need to be TOLD THE TRUTH about your needs and the challenges you are facing. Your letters should lay out the problems you are confront and be juxtaposed against the solution you have proposed and the cost to solve it… a cost that helps others, a cost that relieves the pain of others, offers hope and recovery to those in need.
The fact is that the one person you do not want to “put on a happy face” for is your donor. Donors do not want to get a stodgy, institutional letter that lays out all the successes of the organization and all the support you are receiving. Donors want to hear from their “friend” who is on the front lines fighting for their cause. They want to know what your needs are. They want to know the problems you face. They want you to be honest with them about what you really need and how fast you need it. I am not saying your appeals and donor meeting need to be “doom and gloom” but I am saying that you must present needs, challenges and problems.
Your supporters do not give because you are successful, or because you are a great manager, or because you have met your quarterly budget… your donors give because they view YOU (the president, CEO or executive director) as their friend who is facing a real need and needs their help.
If you are meeting with a donor this week or editing a fundraising letter to supporters, just remember… sometime the truth works.