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That “vision thing” and why you need it

Great donors are not interested in the ordinary, they seek the extraordinary.

They are excited by bold visions of the possible. Visions that are based in the real world but that stretch all boundaries. Visions that keep them awake at night.

A vision is not a document that is prepared once every five years as a result of a strategic planning exercise that then rests on a shelf unread – the vision is addressed every day; it is a living dynamic document that drives all decisions.

Potential great philanthropic investors will look at your organization’s plans for its future. They will ask if the organization has designed its destiny and determined the costs of that destiny, or is it waiting for destiny to implement its design? They have the ability to fund your vision because they were successfully planners and visionaries themselves. Without a strong vision and a plan for its fulfillment, great philanthropists will not participate at the significant levels that are always required. Prospective philanthropists must be identified, educated and engaged to believe in the vision. If the donor has participated in the creation of the vision their commitment is almost always at a much greater level. Philanthropists do not come to their role through a single act of generosity, but rather through a long pattern of growth. We seek the creation of relationships, anchored on a common vision, based on trust, but ultimately linked through a mutually shared set of values and a belief in the future of our organizations.

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Great governing boards of philanthropic organizations don’t just happen, they are constantly designed for greatness, constantly tuned and relentlessly honed. This is a significant undertaking. The building of a world class charitable board is an immense achievement that will lead to the fulfillment of great dreams. Many of your supporters are not interested in being on the board or playing a significant role in the planning. The have confidence in the leadership and vision, but they do need attention on a regular basis and they need to be constantly informed. There are a multitude of organizations that will pay them attention if you won’t.

Attracting champions to your board, who are passionate advocates, who give greatly of their time and are prepared to identify, attract and solicit their friends and business associates in supporting the vision takes time, persistence and boldness. As Jerry Panas has often observed, ”few actions of consequence in the world have been accomplished without passion.” Maintaining the interest of your great supporters, once jigsaw pieces of the vision have fallen into place, requires a review of your vision. Has the vision retained its relevance, has it accomplished its goals? Is it time to become even bolder? The answer can be found by examining the goals and in a multitude of discussions with your funders. Are they still excited and eager to continue to give and perhaps even raise the level of their giving?

As a fundraiser there is nothing more satisfying that working at an organization that plans for a bold future and playing a role in the accomplishment of the shared vision. If your organization is afraid to be bold, perhaps it is time to review your options.