As not for profit organisations face a new era of business sustainability understanding the intricacies  of revenue generation beyond government funding is becoming an increasingly important skill set to hone.

I’ve been exploring and experimenting with alternate models for financial sustainability for years but in the past months decided to do a deeper dive, in this case into the motivations behind those who give.

Over a dozen generous people have already shared their stories of giving and certainly expanded my thinking around the whole notion of giving / donating and the role it plays over and beyond supporting a cause or building a marketing edge.

Actually, I’ve become quite excited about giving and not in the once a year pull out a soup ladle and serve poor people kind of way – in a way that integrates giving as a daily ritual and philosophical practice.  This is now entrenched firmly in our business plan for 2015.  More on that another time.

In my last post I wondered if there was a difference between giving and donating and have since decided that’s a simple semantic question.  However, I’m finding there are some very interesting nuances in the way that people engage in giving:

  • Volunteering
  • Structured giving
  • Random acts of kindness
  • Paying it forward
  • Public giving
  • Sponsorship
  • Partnerships
  • Donating goods or services
  • Staff volunteering programs
  • Sharing information and professional skills
  • Bequests

And how do people decide whom or what to give to?

People give because they care, they give because it makes their life better, from a sense of obligation and a human being, because of religious reasons, because it feels the right thing to do and because they’ve been touched in some way by a person, cause or event.  People also give because it builds trust, it’s a marketing edge and sometimes they give because of an obligation.

Giving isn’t dictated by wealth, yet it appears to build a sense of abundance (often this transcends money).  When giving is obligatory or forced it can have dire consequences, or, perhaps the force can become the little push that can change a life.

Attracting revenue (note, I didn’t write ‘funding’) beyond government grants smooths creates smoother pathways to sustaining core operational costs.  It would be rare to find a not for profit person who hasn’t grappled with government over how money is allocated to core costs at some point.  Just imagine an environment where the Manger and book keeper’s role is stable and perhaps there’s money in the coffers for a marketing or research person.

It’s a fact, engaging people who want to give into your stakeholder mix can have long lasting strategic benefits for your organisation.

But it’s highly unlikely they are just going to stumble upon your organisation, nor is it likely they will give to you just because you are doing something good.

If you’ll pardon the crass metaphor consider a pack of seagulls all vying for a wad of hot chips.  If you felt a strong and compelling need to feed the gulls to ensure their future survival which one would you choose?  How would you decide that?  Or would you just cast your chips willy nilly out onto the sand?

Your organisation needs to stand out.

And the strongest way to do that is with a strong and compelling story, by taking the time to build a relationship that goes beyond the cheque hitting the bank account, by doing what you say and living by what you believe and by considering what you can do for the donor – not just what you want them to do for you.

Drop by tomorrow as we go to the source and find out exactly why the people I interviewed donate, you may be surprised.