Is Your Mission Worth Sacrificing For?

When talking with Board members or other major donor prospects, we often use the words, “meaningful” and “personal” when describing the characteristics of the gift commitments we would like them to consider making.  But, I find fewer and fewer advancement professionals who are using the word “sacrificial” when describing the types of major gift commitments they would like to receive.

While I regularly advocate that giving benefits the giver more than the receiver, which would suggest that the phrase “sacrificial giving” is oxymoronic, I do believe we are missing opportunities to encourage more giving when we fail to communicate why stretch giving is important.

I think there are two primary reasons why this concept of stretching or sacrificing for mission has gone out of fashion at many institutions.

  • First, we don’t communicate our mission.  I think we talk too often about supporting our institution, and not often enough about supporting our mission through our institution.  The distinction is important.  When we talk about supporting our institution with donors, we miss the real power of our message which is our mission.  When we tap into the values of our mission, we are much better positioned to encourage donors to give more than they had thought about previously.
  • Second, we allow a transactional view of philanthropy to replace a relationship-based perspective.  In other words, when we focus more on “what we will give the donor,” and focus less on partnering with the donor to advance a mission that we both value, we lose the opportunity to encourage stretch or sacrificial giving.

It is important, I think, to communicate to major gift donors and prospects that your mission is important enough, worthy enough, to give more than they regularly might.   When we first gain agreement with a donor that our mission is valuable and compelling, we can more easily get into a discussion about increasing giving to more fully live out that mission.  When we start by talking with a donor about naming opportunities or other tangible benefits of their giving, we forfeit our ability to make the case that our mission is worthy of sacrificial giving.


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