Good donor relations depend on a good reputation for fulfilling promises. What do people think when they think about your ministry?
An important word on leadership in the nonprofit sector has to do with your ability to deliver on your promise. Whether you raise money for building water wells in Africa, pregnancy clinics in Cleveland, gang intervention in Los Angeles or evangelism to Eastern Europe, you have to accomplish the mission for your organization to continue. I’ve mentioned in other posts that you can’t brand a lie. You can’t create a brand identity around a specific mission, and never show results.
Donors will follow you for a time, but sooner or later they start asking questions. Granted, experience has shown us that with fundraising, many people are quite gullible, and millions have donated to questionable causes, flawed theology, bad teaching, and evangelists with questionable morals. But over the long haul, building your ministry through results is the key to success.
Creating that mindshare with your donor support base cannot be overestimated. Jim Collins gives the following example of how the power of a brand is the key to building a great identity:
“Does Harvard truly deliver a better education and do better academic work than other universities? Perhaps, but the emotional pull of Harvard overcomes any doubt when it comes to raising funds. Despite having an endowment in excess of $20 billion, donations continue to flow. As one Harvard graduate put it, ‘I give money to Harvard every year, and sometimes I feel like I’m bringing sand to the beach.’ Does the Red Cross truly do the best job of disaster relief? Perhaps, but the brand reputation of the Red Cross gives people an easy answer to the question, ‘How can I help?’ when a disaster hits. Is the American Cancer Society the best mechanism for conquering cancer, or the Nature Conservancy the most effective at protecting the environment? Perhaps, but their brand reputations give people an easy way to support a cause they care about. The same applies to government-funded entities. NYPD has a brand. The United States Marine Corps has a brand. NASA has a brand. Anyone seeking to cut funding must contend with the brand.”
The question is, when it comes to your nonprofit, do you have a compelling brand? Do you have an identity that gives donors a sense of trust? Is your reputation credible? And perhaps most important, is your brand, your identity, and your reputation out there for everyone to see? Are you telling your story well?
Every day our team at Cooke Pictures helps nonprofits and ministry organizations tell their story more effectively. No matter how great your work, if nobody knows about it you’ve failed. If you need helping getting your story to more people, just let us know.
Because our mission is to accelerate yours.
Phil Cooke is an internationally known writer and speaker. Through his company Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California, he’s helped some of the largest nonprofit organizations and leaders in the world use media to tell their story. This article was originally published on Cooke’s blog at PhilCooke.com.