You care about your mission—deeply. Look around you. You see the passion of others. You hear it in the comments of staff, board members, and volunteers. Yet, funding your mission continues to challenge you. What’s the answer? For every cause near and dear to people, the answer is to gather more people with similar passion to join you—and act. This sounds simple. It is. However, it’s not easy. Finding that community from amongst the seven billion people on the planet will take effort. Getting them to act will take even more. To start, first believe that people with passion about your mission can be gathered into communities.
In November, CharityChannel Press published 7 Nonprofit Income Streams: Open the Floodgates to Sustainability! The book helps people to understand the seven streams of nonprofit income and how to use them to create sustainability. In this series of Added Value articles, I share insights from writing it. This month’s insight: The key to increasing income lies in opportunities where mission and community overlap.
I recently spoke with a regional group of executive directors. Each leads a similar sensory loss organization. They readily agreed that they had inadequate income. They wanted me to understand that their cause wasn’t popular like cute puppies and kittens. Since the sensory was often invisible, most people didn’t recognize the needs of the population. Many of the people who experienced the challenge were low income. Collectively, the leaders doubted that communities around their mission could be built. Yet the population they serve is enormous. Thirteen percent of the United States’ population or 41 million people, including two percent of all children, experience the sensory challenge.
Contrast them with the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association (USA). This very rare genetic syndrome causes of life-threatening obesity in children, with a prevalence of around 1:15,000 or less than 25,000 people in the United States. Over its nearly 40-year history, the association has grown support for its work one family at a time. With support from the Association, parents transform into advocates, board members, and donors. “Over 40 percent of the association’s funding is raised in grassroots events sponsored across North America by relatives and friends,” shares Ken Smith, the association’s executive director.
While we need to be careful drawing comparisons between two groups, my point is that if a group can find a community in .0001 percent of the population, surely multiple communities can be found around a cause that impacts 13 percent of it. To obtain abundant income, believe that potential communities exist around your mission. Continue to believe the facts, not your emotions when little has worked to date. Once the population is found, leaders must find ways to gather and engage them either as donors or consumers of mission products. Visually, this looks like the illustration to the left.
The illustration reminds us:
There are 500 steps to this process:
1. Decide that such a community exists.
2 through 500. Find, create, and engage it.
The key to increasing income lies in opportunities where mission and community overlap.
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