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Why Should Donors Care a Whole Awful Lot About Your Organization?

Boston Business Journal
May 10, 2018
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As seen in the Boston Business Journal.

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not,” writes Dr. Seuss in The Lorax.

The fiscal year-end is approaching for many nonprofit organizations. Executive directors, development officers, and their teams are ramping up efforts to make a final push to request donations for their programs. Fortunately, many of these organizations will be the beneficiaries of generous donors who have been influenced directly by the organization or have a personal connection with the mission of the organization: donors who care a whole awful lot about the organization and its mission.

Many donors support organizations out of compassion and the desire to help make a difference. However, these donations often result in tax benefits to the donor as well. This year, due to the significant increase to the standard deduction as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), many donors will be losing the financial or tax incentive to contribute to not-for-profit organizations. Fewer taxpayers will be itemizing their deductions when filing their 2018 tax returns, which includes charitable contributions, as they will benefit more from opting to take the increased standard deduction.

"Oh, the thinks you can think!” (Dr. Seuss)

Organizations should not get discouraged by this, but rather be informed and prepared to approach donors with a plan to show them why they should care a whole awful lot about their organization.

Whether approaching repeat donors or new potential supporters, organizations should show the potential donors how the organization is benefiting the community it serves. Educate potential donors on the population the organization supports (children, elderly, animals, etc.) and how many communities or individuals are impacted by the work of the organization. Are there new programs the organization is offering? Is the organization expanding, or campaigning for a capital project such as developing a new facility or upgrading an existing one? Let donors know exactly how they could help and what influence their contribution could make on the community the organization serves.

Not-for-profit organizations are constantly evolving, so it may be a worthwhile to undertake regular review, on behalf of leadership, of the organization and establish what is most likely to excite donors and get them to care even more now than they have in the past. Try to be creative in promoting your organization. If your organization has an upcoming annual event or fundraiser, organizers should consider featuring a specific program, capital project, or new venture offered by the organization at the event. Getting donors invested in a specific purpose or project may result in additional support as they’ll be able to see exactly what their funds are contributing to.

Another easy, yet less glamorous, place to examine organizational information is through the publicly-available documents that may land in the laps of potential donors (including foundations when applying for grants), such as the tax returns most organizations are required to file. While many view these solely as required compliance filings, there are actually sections within these documents that are perfect opportunities for an organization to describe, in detail, the programs they offer and how they define and carry out their mission.

Your mountain is waiting, So get on your way!” (Dr. Seuss)

Being prepared and carefully defining donor motivation could greatly increase well-deserved funding and support for your organization. Start by setting up a meeting with your main decision makers to set a strategy, and meet at least quarterly to keep refining what makes your organization stand out.