Let me tell you a tale of when I used a Disney cartoon to diagnose a non-profit’s fundraising woes. I hope this anecdote illuminates a key topic all non-profits should discuss internally.
I was recently sitting with a large, international non-profit. And, like many organizations raising money, they were having a hard time finding donors to make it rain. This organization had a lot going for it: a strong legacy in their niche industry, veteran leadership with passionate staff, emotional stories of impact, a far-reaching global presence– yet things had really slowed down and red flags were waving.
After some conversational digging, I found out the problem was their core donor base also happened to be the BENEFICIARY of their programs. Essentially, they were raising money to support teachers. Yet all their marketing and communications were aimed at: (you guessed it) Teachers.
They had — what I called — the Nottingham Dilemma.
In the great tale of Robin Hood, the poor peasants of Nottingham rely on the brave exploits of Robin Hood. In the Disney version, the jovial fox repeatedly redistributes the evil lion Prince John’s tax spoils to the needy inhabitants of Nottingham. A few coins for the family of rabbits, a few coins for the badger, a few coins for the bear.
Therein lied the dilemma for this client. They were actually trying to raise money from a very small pot of funds, only to return those funds to the same group. They weren’t communicating with the Prince Johns of their ecosystem. They were targeting a group that had no leverage in providing resources! This had worked fine for years (miraculously) for this organization, but this approach wasn’t yielding fruit anymore. Surprise surprise?
You don’t raise money from the citizens of Nottingham, you raise money from Prince John. Because this organization is so focused on “talking the talk” with teachers as their beneficiaries, they failed to diversify their communications and campaigns in fundraising.
Perhaps your organization doesn’t have a Nottingham Dilemma — but have you outlined the myriad differences between your beneficiaries and your target donors? And are your communications and campaigns truly leveraging those differences?