Create Champions by Building Community
Have you ever been surprised by a large bequest? A school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was the recipient of such a testamentary gift when they received a multi-million dollar bequest from a man who, by all outward appearances, seemed to be of modest means.
While some bequests may come as a surprise, they are by no means accidental. Some people have given bequests to your organization because they believe in the good work you do. They know who you are and like what you do! This means your organization has positively influenced them over time and has won them over with a good reputation. Imagine what might happen if you influence your donors with a high level of care and intentionality! Imagine what might happen if you help your donors feel valued!
Building a pipeline of substantially sized gifts will require a markedly different approach than through impersonal and generalized appeals. With larger gifts comes the need for a greater level of personalization, stewardship, trust and community. With perseverance, these efforts will shape your organization’s culture by creating enthusiastic champions of your cause.
Creating a Positive Community
How do you cultivate an environment where donors wish to champion your cause and give more? This requires a shift in thinking, where leadership care is needed every bit as much as generalized marketing. Planned giving expert, Kathryn Miree, has wonderfully identified this shift by explaining how an organization’s fundraising maturity grows when the organization no longer thinks of fundraising as a transaction but an intentionally relational experience.
How do you become more intentionally relational? One key ingredient to this includes the need to create a vibrant community. Community plays an important role in producing future champions and raving fans. In fact, a community of like-minded people who organize themselves around a common purpose can become an unstoppable force and propel your fundraising capacity to an entirely new level. As with any endeavor worth doing, building a positive community culture will require determination, consistency and grit. It starts with a commitment to making community happen.
Well-directed and grace-giving leadership are two ingredients commonly found in successful community environments. With a blend of positivity, creativity, impassioned direction and a sense of organization, leaders may raise up an increasingly excited group of people.
So, where do I start?
Start with those around you. Once committed to intentionally building community, showing care for your fellow team members can be a great place to start. When those around you sense that you have their best interests at heart, they will look forward to future times together with trust and anticipation. Care radiates outward. When those around you feel cared for, they will begin to care about others. When you feel valued by those who lead you, you will love talking about your work with others. This care and competence spills over into the lives of those who both volunteer and give. When others have had consistently positive interactions with you, they begin to feel better off because they spent time with you.
A great culture is a magnet for drawing great people. And, a fun environment becomes the catalyst for turning great people into organizational champions.
Let’s talk about positivity and impromptu fun. While some activities may be more structured in nature, I’m a big fan of spontaneity. Spontaneity is often organic and does not require a top-down approach. What can you do with your team to create a fun organic experience? Well, here’s what we do as a place to start:
- Coffee runs
- iPhone/Android video of your favorite pet: Creating a vignette of short videos of your favorite pets to share
- Bring in photos of family members, projects you’re working on or trips you’ve taken and share with others
- Bagels for birthdays
- Sitting around the table for lunch one day a week
- Games, like ping-pong or corn hole
- Community service projects; getting involved as volunteers within your own organization’s work
- Fun (Hawaiian, one color, favorite Disney character, etc.) shirt day: Have a photo taken and sent around the office and beyond
You may have a number of fun activities already happening around the office and with your donors, so keep it up! More important than creating fun activities, however, is in the way your team, volunteers and donors feels valued. Identifying personal strengths and optimizing ways to see those strengths play out within your organization can be life giving and promote satisfaction among those around you.
“Where is all this going, Andy?” you might ask.
While creating fun is not the ultimate goal here, it will make our greater goal possible. The loftier goal is to produce a great environment that spills out from your team, volunteers and donors and into the lives of others. The overflow of a life-giving environment can deeply impact your volunteers and future donor base.
That’s it for now. What efforts have you made to build community? I would love to hear!