I read quite a few online news journals covering non-profits. Essentially, every week I’m reading stories about how donors are taken for granted, how organizations lament how much donor and value attrition is going on, how fundraisers are leaving every 13-18 months, and how many non-profit workers are creating unions because working conditions are so bad.

Why is all this happening?

Because non-profits have a narrow view of what their mission is. Their view is that the mission is just about the “thing” they do that is helping change the world.

What many non-profit leaders and boards don’t understand is that the minute you hire someone or ask someone to volunteer or start taking donations to further what your organization does… your mission expands.

There are three legs to the mission stool: 1) the work you’re doing to change the world, 2) the people who help you execute that change, and 3) the donors who help you do it with their resources.

Unfortunately, most leaders only think it’s #1. They look at staff and donors as a means to an end… to get the work done and as ATM machines.

This is exactly why you see stressed out staff, high turnover, and high donor and donor value attrition rates.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? I’ve visited so many non-profits that on the surface have this incredible mission, and they do such good in the world. Yet they treat their staff and donors like doormats.

Last week, I visited one of our clients who we have had the privilege of working with for many years. I met with the CEO, and we talked at length about how he’s learned that caring for donors is as important as the work they do every day to change the world. I almost fell out of my chair as I haven’t heard this come out of the mouth of a non-profit leader in so long.

At this organization, they treat donors as part of their mission. They talk about their responsibility of helping donors find joy in their giving, thanking them promptly, and telling each donor how they made an impact.

The offices of the staff were amazing. People were happy to be there. The space was world-class. Wages are high, and people stay.

The center that ran their programs was equally impressive and filled with art and beauty enjoyed every day by those they served, who felt proud to be there.

The three legs of the mission were being realized in full force. And the result of all that? A record number of people served, very high staff retention, and major gift revenue that has doubled over the last 5 years!

As a non-profit leader, if you can put as much energy, resources and passion into your staff and donors as much as you do executing your mission to help change the world, your non-profit will grow exponentially.

If you have staff and donors, you must consider expanding what your mission is. Every non-profit has a responsibility to do it.