Who Are You? What Can You Do?

Who is your favorite charity? What do they provide?

With over 1 million registered nonprofits in the United States and more than 30,000 primarily focused on children’s needs and issues, it is critical that nonprofit organizations are able to clearly and succinctly define who they are and what they do, as well as articulate the services they provide.

But as a nonprofit organization, can you define who you are and what you do? From a fundraising and development perspective you should be able to clearly outline those benefits you offer donors for associating with your organization. Sometimes this is defined as a brand platform, but it can also be as simple as answering the question, “What do we want the public and our target constituents to immediately think of when they hear our name?”

For instance, when any of us hear the words “Coca-Cola,” what comes to mind? What about “Nike” or “GEICO” or “American Red Cross”? It is not a fluke or simple luck that when we hear these organizational names we all generally conjure up the same images, feelings, and expectations.

These organizations have gone to great lengths to define who they are as a brand, the “technical equities’ and the “emotional equities” they own, and how they differentiate themselves from other brands in the same product or service category. This process is no less important to nonprofit organizations who are trying to grow and prosper in a space where the competition for the charitable dollar is fierce.

In James C. Collin’s powerful management book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, Collins suggests great organizations take the time and effort necessary to develop what he calls the “Hedgehog Concept,” which, in short, when applied to nonprofit organizations, asks three defining questions that must be clearly answered:

  1. Can the financial model of our nonprofit organization become stable, sustainable and viable?
  2. What can our nonprofit organization be the best in the world at?
  3. What “lights the fire” of those working for our nonprofit organization?

The exercise of defining who you are, what you are, what you can provide (and be the best at the world at!), led me to a discussion with an associate of mine who founded and runs a billion-dollar, multi-national company. He asked me this compelling question, “If you only had 30 seconds during an elevator ride with a potential donor or client you had been trying to reach for months, how would you best introduce and explain Operation Kids?”

Out of that conversation came our own 30-second “Elevator Speech”:

Operation Kids is the leader in providing customized philanthropic services for individuals, families and companies. For more than a decade, we have managed the charitable giving process for our clients, helping them make informed giving decisions and achieve greater impact. Our philosophy is that by supporting a researched community of charities serving the most important issues facing kids, we improve the lives of more children while increasing the accountability and effectiveness of charities serving them. Our clients know…their giving is “OK.” And because of the ongoing generosity of our founders and supporters, our service is free. This is the charitable gift Operation Kids offers its clients. Your passion, our work, more lives changed.

While many organizations can easily be introduced and explained in 3-5 minutes, it is a very productive and positive exercise to craft an introduction (who you are/what you are/what you can provide) that is deliverable in 30 seconds or less. Not only will having this distilled-down, crystal-clear “Elevator Speech” prepare you for that oh-so-important opportunity with a targeted donor or client, it also becomes invaluable as your organization further defines what benefits it can offer your key audiences, including donors.

As you better understand who you are, what you are, and what you provide, this organizational solid-footing also helps you better formulate and package the benefits you can and must deliver, to either direct-service recipients or to participating donors and supporters. It forces your organization to ensure that what you are offering is a natural extension of who and what you are.

You become an organization that not only succinctly talks the talk, but also effectively and efficiently walks the walk.

In 2 Weeks: Step #3: Information is Currency!

This is the second part of a 10-part series The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising

-Don Stirling

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2 Comments

Filed under Better Fundraising and Development, Initiative: Nonprofit Operations

2 responses to “Who Are You? What Can You Do?

  1. Pingback: The Only Difference is Zeros « A Voice for Children

  2. Pingback: Get Inside the Door « A Voice For Children

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