Sharing your mission with strength and clarity attracts donors and foundations that are aligned with your values and ready to give.
It’s a famous scene.
“Why don’t you kiss her instead of talking her to death?” the old man shouts from his quiet front porch.
George Bailey, telling his future wife tales of how he’ll lasso the moon for her, won’t simply kiss the woman he so obviously loves. He won’t admit to himself exactly what he wants. Despite this, Mary knows and patiently waits for him.
This is romance. The clueless, obviously in love man and the patient woman. It is also a perfect analogy for how we as nonprofit fundraisers too often talk about our respective missions.
In part because of the political correctness movement, the new woke version of it, and our natural human fear of being disliked, far too many organizations water down or muddy their mission statements.
This is, of course, especially true of groups on the right or those in other ways unpopular amongst the woke and PC crowds. We don’t want to make anyone feel they can’t be a part of this mission, we think to ourselves. Or worse, we don’t want to get ourselves in trouble for being a member of an unpopular party.
So rather than telling the woman we love her, and kissing her, we tell her we’ll “lasso the moon.” We string ambiguities together hoping that those who know will know and those who don’t won’t be offended.
Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that we ought not write or speak beautifully about our missions. After all, part of the beauty of the “lasso the moon” scene is the romance of it all. The problem is that it took George four more years to say what he really meant: “I love you.”
Donors and others interested in our missions are unlikely to wait one year, let alone four. So, state your mission beautifully but don’t confuse your readers by not stating your mission in strong and clear language.
Strong statements are necessary to communicate your message well. You have to be clear and bold in the statement of your mission. With this statement, you are not only inspiring the actions of your staff but also the actions of potential donors and volunteers.
A watered-down mission statement, which offends no one, also inspires no one. It’s the fastest way to get emails deleted, conversations ended, and eyes turned to something more interesting. After all, it is only because Mary longed for George that she did not move on in those four years. He nearly missed his opportunity to the less-virtuous Sam Wainwright, who told Mary clearly what his intentions were.
It is the same with your donors. They won’t wait for you to tell them what you are doing. Every day you confuse and obfuscate, you lose donors to the Sam Wainwrights of the world.
This is not to say that you have to turn every mission into “Red Meat” or rely on exaggeration and bombast. It is, however, to say that your mission should be stated clearly, without hedging or ambiguity. Your goals and your intentions should be crystal clear. State them beautifully and inspiringly, but stop worrying about offending. You cannot be everything to everyone. Not all will care for your mission and that is A-okay.
So, what does stating your mission with strength and clarity require of you as a fundraiser? First, it requires a full understanding of the problem you’re addressing and your organization’s solution. If it takes you more than 60 seconds to state your mission, if you have to provide caveat upon caveat, clarification upon clarification, you don’t know what you do.
Second, it requires courage. This is something we all need in our work, but it is especially true for fundraisers. Phones will be hung up, voices raised, and eyes rolled in response to you stating your mission. Brush these reactions off and summon the courage to do it again. After all, your job as a fundraiser is to find those charitable individuals and institutions who are aligned with your mission. Shed no tears for those who are not.
There are donors out there who share your passion for your mission, and they are waiting to hear you say it. Don’t miss your opportunity!