Special Feature: Envy

This article is available until April 30, 2017
Sizzling? Imagine what life would be like if we weren't constantly comparing ourselves to everyone else. Have you noticed how much of our internal dialog is focused on where we fall short, making excuses for why we could never be like them or would never want to be? Rather than celebrating the accomplishments of another or using them to motivate us, we feel inadequate and insufficient.

Guess what? That's the same incessant monologue that we use to compare our nonprofit organizations to others.

How do I know this? I spend most of my waking hours talking with nonprofit leaders, that's how. It doesn't take long to sense a trend:

  • "We're not like the symphony or opera. We don't have a well-heeled board like they do."
  • "We're not a human service organization with pressing needs like hunger and shelter. We're just an arts organization."
  • "Our mission is not attractive or understandable to most people. We work with addicts and ex-felons. We don't have cute kids or puppy dogs."
  • "We have the cute kids (or puppy dogs). Everyone thinks they know what we do and that we're 'handled' financially. If they only knew the truth."
  • "Our board members aren't willing to raise money like real 'fundraising boards' do."
  • "Our board members are happy to get their friends to give but as soon as they go off the board, their friends stop giving. We want long-term donors like hospitals and universities have."
  • "We have significant confidentiality issues to deal with. We can't just walk people around here the way the food bank or a school can."
  • "We have the board everyone envies. Yet our board members are not passionate about our mission. They don't roll up their sleeves and really get to know us. It's just a status thing for them to serve on our board for a few years and then cycle off. We'd rather have a smaller, passionate board than all these high-level, busy people."
  • "We could never pull off a big event like that in our town. We could never raise that kind of money here."
  • "We don't have a working board like they do; our board meets quarterly and they just want to rubber-stamp things and be gone."
  • "Our donors aren't capable of giving as much as donors in those other communities."
  • "We're just too small to do that. We're not like the big-budget nonprofits in our field."
  • "Our Visionary Leader isn't nearly as engaging as theirs. He/she is a good manager but not a powerful speaker."
  • "But they're in a big city. We're just in a small town. People here are used to ice cream socials and spaghetti dinners. We don't have rich people."

Perhaps a few of these laments sound familiar, even true.

Might you be using them as justifications for staying stuck in familiar, unproductive patterns? It would be easy to do that, you know.

Alternatively, rather than letting these comparisons immobilize you, you could:

  • Use them to inspire and motivate you to take action.
  • Ignore them altogether and get to work on what you know needs to be done.

Perhaps yours could be the first domestic violence shelter in your region to crack the code on how to offer a Point of Entry without violating the confidentiality of your residents.

Perhaps just one or two of your board members so love your mission that they would help you champion a more mission-focused approach with your board, an approach that over time could attract new mission-focused board members.

Perhaps your small, best-kept-secret organization could become the talk of the town by engaging your board members, even if they are not super affluent, to become Ambassadors who will, in turn, introduce their work colleagues, their book clubs, and their neighbors to your work. Perhaps some of their guests could, in turn, become passionate Ambassadors, donors, and yes, eventually, board members!

Rather than allowing yourself to become distracted by envy and comparisons with other organizations in your community, put on your blinders and stay focused on your goal. Transform that envy into action. Before you know it, your organization could be the one everyone's envying and wanting to emulate. Imagine that!


Contact Benevon today to learn how the Benevon Model for nonprofit fundraising can help you develop an effective fundraising campaign and cultivate committed lifelong donors.



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