What is Your nonprofit’s secret sauce?

As we all know, either from experience or otherwise in the world of nonprofit fundraising – the ground has shifted under our feet. And it’s unsettling. Have you ever been out on a bridge or other structure that juts out over a ravine. Such as the glass bottom walkway over a canyon or a metal grated “see-through” bridge over a river?

Well, if you have you know what I’m talking about – for me it is a total and almost helpless feeling of instability and a wobbly-leg syndrome from the jitters you get from the experience. I usually like the view, and marvel in the beauty and relish the thrill of it – but I can’t wait to get off the platform onto stable ground.

Unfortunately, in the new world of donor engagement, a world where the consumer is in charge, we may find ourselves permanently stuck on that bridge and having to suck it up and simply deal with it. There is no safe haven, no solid land to retreat to, no alternative but to embrace the experience and adapt our habits and emotions and simply re-adjust our perspective.

Times have changed. We can no longer rely on simple advertising and promotion to get our message out to the public. We’ve got to be more intentional and strategic.

The point is that we are in uncharted territory when it comes to engaging our constituents. We are out on a ledge and it feels uncomfortable. We feel it in our bones – but more importantly we may see it in the results (or lack of) in our communication and fundraising efforts. It’s no secret – its harder than ever to acquire, upgrade, retain and reactivate a donor – across any and all channels. There’s more noise, more competition, changing demographics and behaviors, and many, many other factors converging to make our lives miserable…

But there is hope. And we should always consider the challenges we face as opportunities to succeed. After all we were hired, and are expected, to find solutions and make a positive difference.

The solution can be found by understanding what motivates our constituents and conveying a compelling story;  and most importantly seeking out the most effective way to engage people and inspire them to take action – donate, volunteer, advocate, participate, etc.

But that engagement will only be successful and fruitful for both parties if we go beyond actual results and storytelling. If we leave out the secret sauce our approach will become mechanical, impersonal, and god forbid – cookie cutter in its approach.

What’s our secret sauce?  What makes your organization stand out from the crowd? Why should someone donate to your organization instead of another? What makes you special?