Campaigning Your Mission

By: Jerry W. Henry, Partner

Have you noticed that the political season is in full swing? How could you miss it?  It seems that the candidates for President of the United States are showing up everywhere!  They are carrying their messages directly to the people and trying to help individual voters feel a close personal connection to them.

They aren’t waiting in one location and waiting for the voters to come to them —  they’re crisscrossing this country and (albeit often in large arenas) getting in front of people, engaging with people in as personal a manner as they can.

What can nonprofits — and especially those of us in the development area – learn from them?

My answer: you have to bring your mission to your donor prospects as directly as possible; don’t wait for them to come to you.

In the nonprofit sector, we must get people to experience what our organizations do best. And, that involves thinking of creative approaches for showcasing your mission to a donor (or a small group of donors) in very direct and personal ways.

I provided counsel recently to a history museum that has done this very effectively.  The museum collection represents the history of a huge region of a very large state.  Some communities are at least a two-hour drive or more from the museum.  Recently, they devised a plan to segment the larger land area into smaller regional groups, identify artifacts or historic materials that were portable and that would “speak” to people in each region, and set up small gatherings in various communities sharing these items and their stories with the regional prospects.  This has been a huge success in elevating interest in the museum, and they’ve seen increased traffic based on these efforts to take a bit of the museum to where their people are and to tell a story in a very focused, personal way.  In short, they’re “whetting the appetite” for prospects.

Sometimes, at human service organization gatherings where donor prospects are present, a staff member will introduce one or two people who are recipients of the organization’s mission.  These individuals tell their story and how the organization came to help them.  And, it connects the prospects in the audience to the organization in a very personal and emotional way.

Get people to experience what you’re all about – bring the experience of your organization directly to them; campaign your mission; and, don’t wait for them to come to you.

Are there specific ways that you’ve done this effectively?  I’d enjoy hearing some of your stories….