I Don't Want Your Support

January 01, 2012

Posted in Fundraising and Management.

Overseas (Old) Highway_ Railroad Bridge, Spanish Harbor Key by http://www.flickr.com/photos/1stpix_diecast_dioramas/5934583890/

In my new job at Notre Dame, my focus has shifted more to fundraising and away from the broader marketing work. I recently met my my boss, who starts in a few weeks. He shared a few things he feels pretty strongly about, and one was that he hates the word “support.”

It showed up again in Katya’s list of 18 mood-killing words to banish in 2012.

After thinking about it, I have to agree. Bridges need support or they’ll fall down. Recovering addicts need support or they may regress. A roaring fire needs support or it will go out.

Nonprofits who rely on “support” are sending the message that they will close their doors if they aren’t constantly sustained through donations. You know the kind of support I mean: keeping the lights on, paying staff, etc.

But asking a donor to support you is folly; donors wear out and can only hold you up for so long. Instead of support, ask for an investment. Organizations (as well as companies) rely on investments to grow or solve new problems. Or perhaps the investment is one that pays interest (e.g., an endowment) which can be used for your “support.”

If you’re not quite there yet, talk to your donors about your plan to support yourself. And ask them to invest in your future and the mission you serve.

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