Fundraising Principles For The New Universe: Big Value Communication

Since the Great Recession, fundraising has changed fundamentally – especially major gift fundraising.  In recent posts, I’ve identified three principles (Income Stream Diversity, Database Depth, and Bench Depth) that are keys to institutional success in today’s fundraising environment.

The fourth principle for successful fundraising in The New Universe is Big Value Communication.

Big Value Communication (BVC) means that institutions streamline communications so that key themes are highlighted and all else is removed.  BVC is a concept that is practiced far too infrequently by institutions.  It encourages institutions to be less concerned with the amount of communications generated and more concerned with the strategic themes of those communications.

What does this mean?   Simply put, keep the “static noise” communications (minor news releases, filler stories, etc.) to a minimum.  And maximize those stories, vignettes, and news pitches that directly support a primary aspect of the institution.

As consumers of information, we all are bombarded each day with message overload.  It happens online  (spam email), tv (commercials), radio (ads), as we drive along the highway (billboards), even in our church pews (bulletin inserts).  We are messaged at every turn, literally.  It is overwhelming when you stop and think about it.

When our institutions do not practice BVC, we simply add to the visual and aural communication clutter that is already present.  BVC instructs us to focus our communications on what is strategically important.  If that means that the number of news releases needs to be reduced, then so be it.  Our job as fundraising communicators is not to yell the loudest or the longest, it’s to communicate most effectively.  Remember:  a teacher’s whisper in a noisy classroom can quickly get students’ attention.

So what does BVC look like?  Typically, the themes of BVC are service and client-centered.  Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. If we were gone tomorrow, who would miss us and why?
  2. What new programs, services, or initiatives are we undertaking that hold the greatest promise to enhance our ability to better serve?

Notice — these BVC questions primarily are not about the institution.  They are about those we serve, how we serve, and how we can better serve.  As the old saying goes, “it ain’t about us!”  It’s about the work of our institutions, the value we add, and who we serve.  It’s about our mission, our vision, and our values.

The answers to these questions should help shape the themes of your communications.  When your communications consistently reflect the answers to these two questions, you are implementing BVC.

1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Great article, Jason!

    I encourage the organizations I coach to also include information about their funding gap. Not in a dry, spreadsheet sort of way, but in a human impact way. Example: What asked how things are going at work, a CEO I work with, of a major nonprofit will say, “you know, we are working hard to eliminate our $435,000 funding gap this year. We have raised about $275k so far. Did you know in our after school program it costs about $75 per child per year to keep them safe, learning and off the streets? If there is time in the conversation, he shares a quick story about a real kid whose life is different/better because of this economical, impactful program.

    This is not intended to be an “ask” conversation. It IS intended to cut through the mindset of people thinking the organization is just fine and doesn’t need any additional support. When people see the big building and so many staff people don’t realize there is more to be done.

    I’m on a mission to teach development staff to talk about the money as it affects humans so that supporters are prepared to take action when the ask is actually made.

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