Envisioning the Future
Is it possible to over quote Stephen Covey’s seminal book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People? Since it was first published in 1989 (the year I graduated from college), I have held in high regard Covey’s “Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.”
A clear and concise vision for the future is not only exciting, but also motivational for investors in your ministry.
This could not be more critical as ministries frame their fundraising program, especially concerning major donors. A clear and concise vision for the future is not only exciting, but also motivational for investors in your ministry. Those investors are most likely kingdom-minded and desire to give where they can make the greatest impact in the world.
A vision of the preferred future will demonstrate to donors what the world could look like as your organization achieves all to which God has called it. This should be the starting point for effective programmatic or capital campaigns. All too often, we begin with an annual framework and fundraising is built upon our “needs” for the coming year, without thought of our long-term aims. We limit ourselves with this viewpoint.
Starting with the end in mind will help us identify the gap between the preferred future and current reality. This gap forces a plan of action. The plan is a systematic roadmap that will lead us into the future, illustrating for the donor our knowledge of the issues and the strategy to overcome them. Consider the following first steps toward developing a visionary campaign.
- Cast the Vision – The Appreciative Inquiry organizational change process invites participants to imagine they have fallen asleep and awaken ten years in the future. Everything they had hoped or imagined for their organization had come to fruition. They are then asked to describe that reality. What does the world look like? What is your organization doing? What have you accomplished? Utilize this process to establish a preferred future upon which to base your vision.
- Identify the Current Reality – However, we still operate within the limitations of the present. Your organization’s ability to meet the issues you are addressing still seems insurmountable. The statistics that seem to grow ever-rapidly are defying success. The need for your particular intervention is now more imperative than ever. There is a gap between your vision for the future and today’s reality.
- Develop the Plan – The plan of action aims to close this gap. The plan becomes your roadmap to go “from here to there.” The roadmap must be as specific as possible, with direct outcomes as to lives impacted along the way. It should include benchmarks to celebrate and provide confidence to your investors. Finally, it must have a financial model that will be required to realize success. We are establishing for our donors a return on investment from a kingdom perspective. To further quote Stephen Covey, “Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.”
This, in its simplest form, becomes the framework of your organization’s case for support. It is the messaging foundation by which you will converse with donors about your passion and hope for the future.
Often, the prospect of fundraising can be intimidating.
Often, the prospect of fundraising can be intimidating. Yet, fundraising that involves casting vision, sharing your plan, and demonstrating life impact is energizing. By communicating the bigger picture, donors become true partners with you in co-laboring toward success. They will be a source of encouragement and strength as they join you on the journey. And together you can celebrate as new milestones are accomplished.
It is easy to become overwhelmed with recent negative fundraising data. Over a ten-year period (2003-2013), Urban Institute’s ninth edition of The Nonprofit Almanac reported that charitable giving only increased 3.4% while the number of new nonprofits increased by 23.4%. Vanguard Charitable and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy indicated that giving to charity dropped in 2016 to an all-time low of 53% of American households.
These statistics do not have to alarm those with a clear vision and roadmap for the future. Ministries with a vision and plan will immediately rise to the top of a donor’s giving priorities, and oftentimes that will result in multi-year funding commitments.
Rather than simply funding annual budget needs, donors will be invited into a journey with your organization. The gifts you receive from them become transformational in nature, rather than simply transactional, as they bear witness to your progress toward a preferred future.
Zack Aspegren is the Chief Development Officer of Pine Cove, a gospel-centered Christian camp that strives to be Christ-centered, others-focused, and seriously fun! Zack has consulted with and worked for more than 30 local, national, and international ministries, helping them raise funds for kingdom impact.