Advice to a new executive director of a nonprofit
I don't get to talk to executive directors that much. My gig is mostly with the development people. So I'm glad I caught you now -- just as you start out in your new job, all passionate, optimistic, and ready to take on the world and do your mission better than anyone has ever done.
Here's a secret -- a beautiful secret -- that maybe no one's told you yet: Your organization is doing two sets of good deeds: Your mission and fundraising.
I know a lot of folks in the nonprofit world hate fundraising. They'd do almost anything to avoid it. They're missing something huge: Motivating people to give you money does them tremendous good. Here's some of what giving does for donors:
- Makes them more fully human. People who never give are less evolved, less involved, missing out on key parts of their emotional lives. Part of what it is to be human is to freely give away some of what you have. All major faith traditions agree that giving is a central and required act for human beings.
- Connects them to important things. When you give to something, you care more about it. And that leads to other kinds of involvement -- like volunteering, advocacy, passing on the values to children, and more. If you give to support the arts, you'll appreciate the arts more. It's the same with every sector. Giving is a massively consciousness-raising act.
- Makes them more knowledgeable. People pay more attention to the causes and issues they give to. They become more receptive to information about those things -- even seek it out. Their giving to you helps transform them into the kind of people you wish there were more of.
- Makes them happier. Rigorous psychological studies show this to be true. Giving makes you happy.
- Improves their health. Yep. Giving also improves your health.
- Improves their finances. The return-on-investment of charitable giving is estimated to be a stunning 3.75:1. The positive impact of charitable giving on the economy as a whole is even more dramatic.
How many donors could your organization have? How many people could you do all those good things for? Think about how much better every community and nation can be with more donors.
In fact, let me make a wild and unsubstantiable claim: Depending on how successful you are at fundraising, it might be that your positive impact on the world through encouraging people to give rivals your impact through your primary mission.
So as you launch into your new job, keep this in mind. Don't resent fundraising, celebrate it. Good luck to you!