Organizational growth is almost never easy. It requires the attention and dedication of the entire organization to move outside its comfort zone — to change how it works and most importantly, how it thinks about moving from the comfortable to the unfamiliar. This is what is termed a “culture of growth,” or in the non-profit community, a culture of philanthropy, and it begins with a vision of “what we could be.” This vision creates an atmosphere where every employee organically promotes the organization to evolve.
Donor Development is, at its core, the agent of change. Everyone involved must be in “Donor Development” mode and knowledgeable of how they can contribute to the success of the new initiatives that generate gifts. We all have great donor prospects, but only a few can pass rigorous examination and emerge as Must-Win Donor Programs (MWDP). These opportunities combine the elements of growth potential with the capabilities of the organization and ambitions of the vision. MWDPs are the three to five key opportunities that are an absolute must-win in order to achieve fundraising objectives. This is a fairly short list, but if the list is too long both resources and attention will be unfocused. Absolute precision is required.
A well-chosen Must-Win Donor Program has four characteristics:
Makes a real difference.
“If we win this battle, what difference will it make?” It must make a huge difference and not just to one part of the organization, but to the achievement of the organization’s overall objectives. It is essentially a game changer!
Our MWDPs should be exciting challenges. They should create real energy, such as completing a capital campaign, moving into a higher level of gifting, or expanding the endowment.
Be specific and tangible.
Communicating the vision behind a MWDP to all constituents is paramount. It must be understandable to those who plan and execute the strategy. Part of making MWDPs tangible is to give them a reasonably short time frame.
Does the MWDP align with our core competencies? Can we stretch, be creative, and adapt?
An opportunity isn’t a MWDP just because it fits the above four characteristics, someone named it so, or because individuals really want to achieve it. What makes an opportunity a MWDP is the alignment of vision and priority. Everything associated with the MWDP must align with the required resources to ensure that the donor’s conditions are fulfilled and that they are “all in.”
Start thinking about potential donors who would be designated MWDPs. You need to know that your organization’s development team is prepared to do whatever it takes to connect with these donors, and collectively rise up to the occasion!
Merely saying that an opportunity is a “Must-Win” will not make it so. If MWDP pursuits are to be meaningful, there are a few key things to consider:
- Prioritize – put your top donor potentials at the head of the line
- Implement best practices
- Measure progress
- Allocate sufficient resources
None of the above can be done without the other, otherwise the chances of success are significantly reduced. Most of all, development needs the support, dedication, and passion of everyone involved to win these programs!
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