You will recall your days in elementary school when you first learned about the power of the lever and the fulcrum. This tool shows us that putting our emphasis on simple, well-positioned components can have huge effects. The Greek scientist, Archimedes is noted to have said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”
So what, then, are the key levers and fulcrums to raising more money? In other words, what are the primary components which, if they are correctly engaged, will lead to our biggest results?
First, I would suggest that the “raising more money” fulcrum – or the point at which each of the levers sits – is the mission and vision of your institution. Is your mission relevant today? Is your vision compelling? Are they based on clearly-defined values that resonate with people? Do your mission and vision communicate how your institution will provide important benefits to individuals, your community, and our world? A well-thought-out, inspiring mission and vision is the critical piece upon which your institution will leverage other components.
So, if the fulcrum is your institution’s mission and vision, I would suggest there are 3 levers or areas of emphasis that allow you to raise more money. And, each of these levers focus on people. Here they are:
- The Volunteer Leadership Lever: Who are the people on your governing and/or foundation boards?
- The Staff Leadership Lever : Who provides staff leadership to your annual, major, and planned giving programs?
- The Solicitor Lever: Who makes the major gift ask?
Lever 1 addresses who sets the pace for your institution philanthropically. Are your governing and/or foundation boards populated with members who possess the characteristics of influence, affluence, and generosity of spirit?
Lever 2 addresses who provides day-to-day leadership to your development programs. Do you have creative, mission-driven, thoughtful team members providing leadership to your core development programs?
Lever 3 addresses who is making the most important asks on behalf of your institution. Do you regularly and strategically engage volunteers in major gift solicitations?
If you can answer each of these questions in an affirming voice, your institution will raise more money. If one or more of your answers to these questions is negative, you have just identified a lever that needs attention.
Sure, you can tinker around the edges and re-write phonathon scripts or tweak the messaging and segmentation of a direct mail letter. But these are tiny, less important levers. And adjustments to these levers won’t result in revolutionary outcomes. However, put just one right person on your board, one right person on your development leadership team, or one right person in a major gift solicitation and these levers will help you move the world.
You may be asking, “well, who is it that moves these levers?” That answer is you.