Recently, I was speaking with a new client about their case for support. One of their primary concerns was how to distinguish their organization’s work with seniors from “the competition.” They identified their competition as other local retirement and assisted living facilities.
As an outsider, it was clear for me to see that while those organizations are certainly competition for services, they are not competition for contributions. It is helpful to know what others in your field are doing successfully, but that doesn’t always put them in the role of “competitor.”
While a foundation may find itself occasionally choosing between two similar agencies to support, the average individual donor’s choice is quite different. Rarely is a donor thinking about contributing to your nonprofit vs a similar nonprofit; they’re considering whether to give to your cause at all, or to give to a completely different cause, or, sadly, to do nothing.
Your potential donor is making a decision based on personal experiences and interests. For example, they may give to this particular senior care organization because their mother with Alzheimer’s was nurtured during the last stages of her life. They may also consider donating to an organization conducting medical research on Alzheimer’s or the church where their mother attended. Their choice isn’t about whether to give to you or the similar organization down the street. It’s to give in a way that best expresses their gratitude and honors the memory of their mother.
What does this mean for your case for support?
- It means that the donor is the hero, not your organization. As you list your organization’s accomplishments and dreams for the future, make sure to make it clear that all of these things are only achieved through the generosity of others.
- It means you need to put your cause into a larger context. Your goal is not to show that your organization is more worthy of support than another similar organization. Instead, show how supporting your organization can contribute to a donor’s philanthropic goals and interests.
- It means that your stewardship must reinforce your case for support. More than saying “thanks,” your post-donation communications should show how that donor’s gift made a positive impact in the world.
As you work with volunteers and staff – especially those new to development – make sure to talk with them about where the real competition for contributed support lies, and how your case distinguishes you not just in the head, but in the hearts, of donors.