- Thu, May 12 2011
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
Today, I’m answering more reader mail!
I love reading this blog (and your other work)! Thank you so much… Your post on modules gets at my main struggle. We are a community foundation operating in a low wealth area. We have steered away from the “donor service” model and towards simply building endowments. We want to build endowments to support every area of charitable work in our community.
So donors can do anything. How do I break it down for them to keep it simple and find their module?
Here’s my response.
First off, thanks for your kind words!
Inherent in your note is the question, how do you tell a story about everything to everyone? And the answer is, you don’t. You tell a story about what’s important to one audience. That’s what I mean by the modular approach to a broad mission. This can’t be about an endowment - that’s a means to an end. It has to be about what an endowment means to real people.
Here’s what you need to do.
1. Know your audiences. What do they care about? You want to show how your foundation relates to one person’s - or one group of people’s - deeply held emotional beliefs. It’s about their values, not yours. Different groups of people have different values. Local business leaders vs. the PTA vs. local churches all may be drawn to your work for different reasons. You need to make your foundation relevant to each of these audiences, on their terms.
2. Tell a good story about your work that relates to the audience’s values. For example, say you were trying to solicit support from the local chamber of commerce. What do they are about? Suppose they are big on community pride. They want to make your town a place where people love to live and work - and shop at local businesses. How does your work speak to those priorities? What one great story of one aspect of your work brings that home in a vivid way? Each story of a key value is an endowment area.
3. Think of your community as the hero of your story - not your endowment or your foundation. People have passion for the place where they make their home. How can you capture what bettering your town means to people at a visceral level and translate that into an appealing call to action? What positioning drives that home? This isn’t about building an institution - it’s about a building a better hometown.
I visited your website and the first image I saw was the outside of your foundation building with a sign. I also read the words, “Building a charitable foundation for our community.” Then there were some group photos of people, but I wasn’t sure who they were or why they mattered. This approach is unlikely to resonate with audience values or make people emotionally identify with the heart of your work. It’s too much about you and not enough about them.
This is what I’d do with your home page: Feature well known local folks, but just one person at a time, with one simple quote next to their name explaining why they believe in what you’re doing. Have each person/story relate to one key value for a target audience. For example, you might have a photo of Sue Superwoman, Teacher of the Year, saying “A girl in my class just moved out of a shelter into a real home, and the next day she read me her first ever sentence. What a difference a foundation makes.” (You get the double entendre.) Then you could have a photo of Bob Businessman saying, “I love this town, from ___ to ____ (you would insert local color here). You do too. That’s why we’ll do whatever it takes to strengthen the foundation we share.”
I’m making these up off the top of my head, but hopefully you get the idea. Change up the message - make it about your audience - and change up the messenger. Have people in your community telling stories about how your work resonates with their dreams. That will inspire in a way an abstract idea of an endowment category never could. Make it about a shared aspiration or a solid success and the money will come.
Good luck with your great work! And thanks for letting me publicly reply to your question.