October 20, 2016

Want Donations? Get Clear on Your Development Theory

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.      


Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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