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Where’s Your Focus–outcomes or income?

It’s unfortunate that the perennial debate about nonprofits and charitable organizations is about the revenue they receive—how much, from whom, and whether it will continue.  Witness the recent federal budget negotiations in Washington.  Nonprofits and their association surrogates got into the action to “preserve” their income by lobbing for continued charitable gift deductions, federal subsidies and even higher individual taxes (under the presumption that such would lead to higher federal subsidies).

Wouldn’t we all be surprised if—for once—the nonprofit community engaged in a debate about the effectiveness of their outcomes and whether they were achieving their visions rather than bemoaning the status of their income?

There’s a paradox here.  In Simon Sinek’s words, “Focus on the vision and the numbers will thrive.  Focus on the numbers and the vision will struggle.”  Time and time again I see this truism at work within charitable organizations.  When nonprofits place their emphasis upon their visions and celebrating their achievements, the “numbers”— sufficient revenue to achieve these visions—virtually takes care of itself.  When these same well-meaning organizations are constantly in the public square lobbying for more money and lamenting their scarce resources, the actual work of these organizations suffers and fails to achieve the promise.

Philanthropy is elastic.  It always has been.  Philanthropists-small and large-respond to an expansive vision articulately communicated and validated by outcomes.  They give more because the organization they support dreams bigger and achieves more.  Principle 2 of The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising® is Begin at the Beginning™.  It begins with the vision.  How bold, how energizing to your donors is your purpose?

When you devote your energies to achieving your vision of community betterment, communicate that effectively to those who, through their values are inclined to support your cause, and ask them to join you in fulfilling this vision, you won’t need to pander in the public square looking for handouts.

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