Building Charismatic Organizations

Last night, I finished reading Shirley Sagawa’s book on building magnetic nonprofits. Lots of underlining and sticky notes! Here is one paragraph that sung out to me as particularly perfect in two projects ChangeMatters is working on now (a major gifts, including storytelling, workshop and an arts organization turnaround). How compelling, how inviting, how engaging are we?

“If you have done your job right, the gravitational pull of your organization—its people, purpose, plan, and proof—has convinced your audience that they want to help. It’s at this point that you much challenge yourself to think of involvement opportunities other than check writing—even if what you want and need most is money. If you ask for a donation you might get it. But if you offer a variety of interesting ways to become involved, chances are that over time, you will get larger donations or more of them if a cash transaction is not the only dimension of your relationship. Ultimately that relationship, not just that donation, is what you seek.

“Charismatic organizations often offer a wide range of involvement opportunities, from volunteer positions to education. And they thank those who get engaged in meaningful ways that keep them coming back.”

I did get this message pretty powerfully from Dance Place, where I attended a performance Saturday night. It was all there in the homegrown “playbill.” Class list; performance calendar; mission; letter; photos; friendly and positive language; ways to follow and friend; invitations to come to a show, bring your children, become a member, take a class, buy dancewear, make a contribution, come to a party, volunteer; asking and thanking. And stories, stories everywhere.