But donors don’t know how to help you if you are not asking for the kind of gifts you really need. They will continue to give you what they have always given you...annual undesignated support.
These are great gifts, and you can’t function without them. But if you are looking to build a sustainable organization – one that will be here and doing good work in 20 or 30 years – you need to seek gifts that will enable that.
Those gifts are called endowments!
John told me all this countless times as we were working together. I finally had to give him some “tough love” to adjust his thinking. Here’s the message.
“If you really believe in your organization and its work, John, you would see the value in building a sustainable fund for the future. Your concern over your own personal evaluation misses the point. Don’t let your board measure your success by what’s in today’s bank account. Make them think about the future and how your work organization’s must continue if they believe in it at all.”
I wasn’t surprised when John decided he’d had enough of me!
But the fact is that John and his board and staff were on the “hamster wheel” seeking to survive this year. They had no clue about how to think of what tomorrow might bring. And so they never asked their donors for the gifts that would enable them to provide their services into the future.
You’ve heard it from me forever. People can’t help you if they don’t know what you want. And if you don’t celebrate the fact that your future is as important as your work today, you won’t get those endowment gifts.
There is no evidence that building an endowment jeopardizes annual gifts. In fact, it is proven to enhance annual giving. People are more comfortable when they know you are thinking beyond the “crisis de jour” and planning for a better future. And the endowment gifts complement the annual gifts. Don’t let them compete. Learn how to let your best annual donors become your exemplary endowment donors without jeopardizing their annual gifts. Endowment building is easy if you know how to orchestrate the ask.
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