Want Donations? Crystalize Your Development Theory

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What’s your explanation of how your nonprofit organization obtains donations? How exactly does having a mission, supporters, and need, generate money? How do these elements fit together? What’s your theory?

 In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth writes about a meeting with her graduate advisor, Martin Seligman. When his questions reveal that she lacks a theory for her field of study, he fusses at her. She leaves the office in distress and invests a decade to finding a theory about grit. Grit, she found, predicts success more than talent or IQ.    

If you seek donated income, you need grit. You also need a theory about how you receive donations. Without a theory, people get confused and lost when they try to help. A theory reduces complexity. Everyone knows what to do next and how different actions contribute to donation growth. Your theory points out how you work together to effectively gain donations.  

What donations? Write out how donations happen. Write out your theory. If you’re serious about growing donated income, make generating your organization’s theory the heart of your next board retreat.      

In the next issue, I’ll share my theory. But, first jot down yours. 


Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis Consulting guides executive directors and CEOs to generate the resources, boards, and support they need to make remarkable progress on their missions. As the award-winning thought-leader, advisor, and founding principal of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, Karen helps nonprofit leaders get answers, generate revenue, and grow their mission. Davis is known for her innovation and practicality based on her work with or visits to over 1,000 nonprofit organizations and her experience leading board and team events. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.