Maintaining Interest in Perpetual Missions Time to Educate!
Some missions are perpetual. If your organization has one of those missions, the needs of those you serve will never go away. No amount of innovation, collaboration or reorganization will change the fact that every morning when you open your doors, people, often the same people, will be waiting - desperate for your help. If this sounds familiar, it's time to escalate your efforts to educate.
Are you having difficulty presenting your mission and contituents in a compelling way? Doing so can be a challenge if you are serving misunderstood populations of people or those who are being served because of other, highly disputed, political issues. Do foundations reject your grant applications because you're not achieving "measurable success" - or because your proposal doesn't create a new initiative, partnership or merger? It would be wonderful if you could invent a better wheel, but sometimes the old wheel is all there is - all that works. As the old saying goes, "if wishes were horses," there wouldn't be a need for your organization in the first place!
Individual donors can be lured away by other organizations whose missions appear more appealing. Foundations are always looking for ways to get a better return on their community investments. Corporations are looking to get maximum visibility for their dollars. Let's face it; donors contribute for reasons of their own. It's their money - they're entitled. If you don't know what's in it for them, you can't hope to motivate donors, foundations and corporations to support your cause. Knowing what makes your contributors tick is vital to success. Fortunately your organization can influence funders' priorities and preferences. The key is education.
What is donor education? "Education" covers a wide variety of marketing messages and media. Everything from face-to-face meetings with foundation program staff and major gift prospects, to donor acquisition direct mail to rented lists, to advertising and public relations qualifies as education. In fact, the key to any education effort is diversity and integration. Communications with donors are most effective when they are highly integrated and coordinated. An acquisition mailing should follow a PR and outreach effort, and it should be followed by telemarketing, more PR, and meetings open to the public. The common denominator in every message is to portray your mission in appealing, compelling language, and to describe what you do in terms that evoke emotion. In short, every message must "make it [your mission] personal" and make it difficult for those who've heard your message to turn their backs on your cause.
For organizations with "traditional old" missions, such as helping people who are perpetually in need, the primary goal of any education effort is to reenergize funders' commitment to your mission and attract new sources of funding. Success will come when you put funding prospects squarely in the shoes of those you serve, and then show the prospects what's in it for them.