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3 Ways to Educate Donors About Movement Building

March 26, 2019

DownloadAt your most recent meeting with donors, you probably discussed the impact of your programs and perhaps even asked for commitments for the upcoming fiscal year. Did you also talk to them about funding the movement itself to ensure its future viability and success?

Donors typically give for two reasons: 1) to leverage gifts from other donors; and/or 2) in response to short-term needs. In both cases, the impact of their gifts plays out across two dimensions: helping bring others to the cause, and helping the people or cause served by your organization.

So while it's common for nonprofits to pitch donors in terms of the tangible difference their gifts will make for intended beneficiaries or the cause, organizations also need to learn how to demonstrate to donors the value of supporting the broader movement itself.

How to build a movement

Over the years I've been involved in movement building, clients often have shared with me the names of donors they believe are open to taking a broader view of the movement. On occasion, clients even have asked me to speak with certain individuals to gauge their interest in funding movement-building activities and to share any thoughts I might have about the approach they should take in subsequent conversations with those donors.

Below, I share some of what I've learned from my interactions with donors in the belief it will give you something new you can use in your conversations with donors to educate them about the importance of movement building.

Theme: Elevate Your Donors' Role in Social Change

Rationale: Every day, members of the public are invited to support various causes and are reminded about the impact their support will have. The subtext is: "Give, and you'll make a difference in people's lives." Demonstrating that impact is crucial to the success of your fundraising efforts, but your donors also need to see that your cause — their cause — is being picked up by the general public and that their involvement in the issue is critical to sustaining the effort over the long term.

Talking point: "I don't know if it has occurred to you, but your gift has a two-fold effect. It makes it possible for us to [describe impact in terms of the target population or cause]. But your gift also has an impact on the public. When people see evidence that things are getting better for [the target population or cause], they often are inspired to join in and do their part. Your gift influences the public's attitudes toward [your issue], generating more giving in support of the cause and helping create a virtuous cycle. That's how you sustain a long-term social change effort."

Theme: Promote the Role of the Public in Social Change

Rationale: If you've done your job, your public engagement strategy should already be generating support for your cause or movement. Your goal now is to get to a deeper level of engagement.

Talking point: "We need to continue to serve our beneficiaries while inspiring the public to care more about the issue than they do. Investment in the cause/movement will benefit us all in two ways: 1) better results for the people we serve; and 2) changed public attitudes resulting in more dollars we can reinvest in positive social outcomes and additional public engagement. That's why we wanted to talk to you about helping us galvanize a cycle of movement building." [Consider creating a visual graphic to help make your points.]

Theme: Explain How Public Engagement Can Take Social Impact to a New Level

Rationale: Creating a narrative around the importance of public engagement can help persuade stakeholders to provide additional resources, advocate for policy change, and/or take direct action that ripples through and strengthens the cause or movement.

Talking point: "With your support, we can illustrate impact for the target population and use our next milestone to influence public discourse, sentiment, and participation related to the overarching goal — igniting a virtuous cycle of issue engagement. We need donors like you who understand how such a holistic and complex strategy works." [Consider creating a visual timeline of public engagement milestones to which the donor’s infusion of resources can be added.]

Tap into beliefs

As marketers and fundraisers, we should be cognizant of how supporters of causes tend to act on their beliefs rather than out of loyalty to an institution. Movements are built on these passionately held beliefs. To generate support for those movements, nonprofits must demonstrate that they are fighting in lock-step with their donors to strengthen and advance the movement.

Many organizations know all too well the frustration of only receiving project support or one-off grants that never really lead to much. Funding public engagement with your issue or cause and, by extension, movement building, is an opportunity to challenge donors to look beyond the short term and leverage their influence and dollars to bring new people to the movement. What could be better than that?

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

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