Are You Forgetting Something Important?

In Simon’s Sinek’s “Golden Circle” TEDx talk from 2009, he shared the idea with the world that:

“100% of organisations on the planet know what they do, some even know how they do it, but very, very few people or organisations know why they do what they do”.

And even though the power of knowing your “why” is far more familiar to people and organisations these days, it is still a rare organisation who has prioritised the articulation of it and the vigilant adherence to it.

Most organisations spend their time strategizing about how to convince the market or their audience of their unique “what.” From children’s charities to content creators, and cause-based organisations to activists, many invest the majority of their energy into communicating “what” they do. And undoubtedly the activities of many ministries are remarkable:

  • Delivering humanitarian aid to the world’s most vulnerable
  • Sharing the gospel with radio listeners
  • Mentoring disadvantaged youth

Moreover, many of these organisations have become very, very good at “what” they do. Even developing unique and innovative approaches to “how” they do it – like new delivery models or the creation of cutting-edge technologies.

At Dunham+Company, we totally agree with Simon Sinek on the importance of knowing and communicating your organisation’s unique “why.”

That’s why we prioritise the exploration and articulation of this with all our ministry partners. Because doing business with people who believe what you believe will lead to the greatest ministry impact.

Simon Sinek suggests an organisation’s “how” is the unique approach that makes your organisation different or better than others. It is your unique value proposition or your proprietary process. He uses the example that Apple’s “how” is the creation of beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly computers.

In the same way, every ministry has a unique approach to how they outwork their calling.

But when most charities or donor-funded organisations create their own “golden circle” – to express what they do, how they do it, and why they do it – they can often forget one important thing.

They don’t put donors or donor funding in their “how” circle. They would put a whole bunch of other stuff there but often not the donors.

Yet, in actuality, donors are their most important “how.”

And this in part is why so many organisations can neglect to appreciate the vital role that donors play. Because they tend to think of donors as purely the funding model that allows the organisation to outwork its “what,” “how,” and “why.”

But it’s important to remember that all donor-funded ministries get to do amazing ministry work because of the givingsometimes sacrificial givingof many individuals.

These individuals receive no personal gain from their giving.  They do it because they believe in the “why”they believe what you and your ministry believes.

They believe in the kingdom purpose of your ministry, and they believe they are able to make a difference in the world by giving so your organisation can do “what” you do.

So, can you become so focused on what you do that you overlook the critical role your donors play in your organisational “how”?

And how can you know if overlooking your donors as the heroes they are has crept into your organisation’s culture?

Asking yourself the following questions could help:

  • Do you have a generous thank-you process?

I don’t believe there is a risk of over-thanking donors.

If a genuine appreciation for donors exists within your organisation’s culture, and there’s genuine gratitude for the impact their giving creates and the opportunity they provide for your ministry to outwork your God-given calling – then thanking donors will be seen as one of the most meaningful and fundamental elements of your organisation’s ministry. It won’t become just an administrative task to tick off your list.

  • Does donor-centric language come naturally?

In fundraising communication there are essentially two approaches…

You can tell the reader how amazing your organisation is, all the great things that your organisation does, and share why you think the reader should support you.

Or you can craft an invitation: to inspire and challenge the reader that their gift will help to bring about a solution or make amazing things happen in the lives of others. The latter approach requires donor-centric language. And while it can feel like a counterintuitive way to communicate, it can be easily identified in copy by the absence of the words “we,” “us,” and “our.”

  • Are you making it a priority to build relationships with your donors through your communications?

Considering return on investment is important when determining the communication channels for your organisation and your audience.

However, fundraising at its core is relational – so your fundraising programs needs to have both “one-to-many” communications channels as well as genuine “one-to-one” relationship-building opportunities. Again, if your organisation has a genuine appreciation for the impact your donors make possible, then creating opportunities for personal, relational connections with them will be prioritised and valued as one of the greatest honours of doing ministry. 

If you have answered “No” to any of the above questions, then perhaps it is possible that your organisation needs to work toward embracing that donors are a vital part of “how” your ministry gets to do what it is called to do.

The bottom line is, you know what you do – and why you do it.

But don’t forget to thank your donors – and how they help make it all possible.

+ More Insights from Dunham+Company: “Are You Ready for the Wave

Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters.