There seems to be something about certain non-profits that when donors want to roll up their sleeves and get involved, a giant wall rises and blocks them from doing it.
I don’t know what it is, but I suspect that the insiders don’t want the outsiders to come in and mess things up. Or, they don’t want the outsiders to come in and find out things they are keeping quiet.
Yes, we do have volunteers. But they DO “stuff”. They aren’t generally allowed to have input on process and policy or design strategy. What do they know, anyway?
That’s how we think. What do donors really know that can advance our cause? Not much. All we need them to do is give us the money and let us do the work.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were observing some work happening in front of you, you knew exactly what to do, you knew you could make a big difference, but no one would ask you to get involved? I have, and it is really frustrating. I know I can provide a good solution, but the authority figures won’t let me in.
This subject of involvement – donors and others – is huge. Here’s why. Whereas older generations of donors were happy to just give their money, these younger donors are not going to stand by and not get involved. It’s not gonna happen.
I was on a call last week when a couple of board members were talking to the Development Director and MGO about a new fundraising initiative in the organization. I could tell that these two people were not going to sit around and just be token placeholders. They had something to say. They had extremely good input and resources to contribute. And no amount of dismissive behavior was going to cut it.
Luckily, the Development Director understood this involvement thing and managed the conversation in an honoring and inclusive way.
There are many donors on your caseload who do not want to get involved. That’s cool. There is, however, a handful of donors with wisdom, experience and talent that do want to get involved. Do you know who they are? Do you know how to involve them? Here are some suggestions:
- Go through your caseload and identify those donors with whom you know want to be more involved. Once you have identified them, figure out what kind of involvement would be meaningful for them. Do not just throw them on some committee, although that may also be good. Figure out a specific, helpful and practical method of involvement.
- Talk to the insiders, who control things, about whether you can involve specific donors. Share your ideas and try to design how it will work. Get their buy in.
- Talk to the donor about your idea and gain more information from her. By this I mean, up until now, you have done all the thinking and designing. Now it’s time to get the donor’s view of how this might work. So, get that input and put it into your final plan.
- Propose it up-line, get approval and execute it. Self explanatory.
- Talk back to the donor and make it happen.
Remember, some of the biggest blocks to donors being involved are the insiders who do not want to share control or information. Find a way to address this core issue in your organization and let a donor sit at the table.
When donors have some “skin in the game”, it follows that their hearts and resources will also be there. This is a good thing for everyone.
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