Monday, December 5, 2011

Drinking The Kool-Aid: Balance Your Funding Messages With Reality

Face it. As a nonprofits leaders you are in the sales and marketing business. As a leader raising funds, you constantly share with others that your nonprofit organization’s work is important, meaningful and valuable. Indeed your work is important, valuable, and meaningful.

Obtaining funding requires that you present your work and services in the most favorable, hopeful manner. Yet, important, valuable, and meaningful does not equal perfect. Even the most exemplary nonprofits face daily challenge to step-up to the next level, to fine-tune their work, to provide more mission, and to prepare for the future. (Follow this link for the traits of exemplary non-profit organizations.) Non-profit organizations who do not meet these challenges will shortly become un-exemplary.

The danger comes when leaders get caught up in the positive message and believe they are important, valuable and meaningful –and that they have arrived. When leaders get caught up in the external message and forget imperfections and growth needs they can be poisoned by drinking the own Kool-Aid.

The solution is balance. Smart nonprofits leader balance their “we are worthy of your funding message,” while simultaneously sharing areas under construction. They tell us how they are working to improve and are positively honest about mistakes. This balance reflects reality. It also creates a community of support, including donors, staff and volunteers, who understand that being a successful nonprofit is an ongoing movement that result is falling into potholes from time-to-time. When these bumps come, and they will, most of the community who has been hearing your balanced message will remain loyal. They love you. They love your work. They believe you will meet the challenges you face.

How do you communicate worthiness of support to your external audience and acknowledge your need to improve daily? How do you help people who have joined your organization, but are disappointed when they learn it is not perfect?

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