Articulating Your “Why”

type?shutterstock_84644803I recently revisited a TED talk by Simon Sinek from 2009. In it there are some essential lessons for those of us in fundraising communications.

Sinek asks the question – what makes one leader, company, or organization truly inspirational? What makes us want to follow, purchase from or join them?

The answer is that they know how to talk about their “why.” As Sinek explains it, most of us know “what” we do, and many of us know “how” we do it. But few are capable of articulating “why.”

It’s easy for fundraisers to get caught up in the what and the how, because you’re immersed in it every day. You might find yourself writing things like:

Our organization provides homes for orphaned and abandoned children.

That is your “what we do” statement, and it’s useful, in small doses. Or you might say,

We make sure kids get breakfast at school.

That’s a “how we do it” statement – how is important, but only AFTER you’ve told your donor why it’s needed.

So how do you write a strong “why” message? A useful exercise is to revisit your what and how statements. Ask “why” should I care about “what” you do or “how” you do it? For example:

Why should I care about the first organization’s orphaned and abandoned children? Because:

If we do not invest in these children today we cannot hope to achieve security and       prosperity for the world tomorrow.

Why does it matter that children are able to eat breakfast at school? Because:

There are little boys and girls in America who cannot learn in school and cannot sleep at night because they are hungry.

Donors want to know “why” your organization exists…and “why” they should care. So remember to focus on your “why” to inspire and motivate your donors.

And here’s a hint – what do you think might be one of the best ways to articulate your “why”? Through telling your stories, of course. But that, my friends, is a conversation for another day…

– Posted by Lisa Swayze


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