The Fundraising Trinity
Gauging and growing connection, concern, and capacity.
“People give to your organization because it meets needs,
not because it has needs.”
Kay Sprinkel Grace, source
Nonprofit arts organizations produce, present, or steward creative work that doesn’t capture its full cost back from direct exchange. That is a feature, not a flaw. But it’s a feature that leaves arts managers continually seeking contributed income.
Since the amount to be raised each year is significant and recurring, it’s easy to narrow focus on donor capacity above all other indicators. Obvious wealth and high income must be the metric that matters, or at least be a primary filter for our energy, attention, and time.
But development consultant Kay Sprinkel Grace and others suggest that such a narrow view is a fatal mistake. In Beyond Fundraising (2005), she names a trilogy of indicators, of which the last is the least useful: connection, concern, and capacity.
According to Grace:
Connection is the emotional connection an individual or institution has with your organization – it derives from direct, personal experience with your people and your work. It is the strongest factor in determining the potential for the donor-investor’s involvement.
Concern is the domain of intellectual and thoughtful attention. “A person can be concerned about an organization’s mission without being emotionally linked to it,” writes Grace. Here the focus is on problems, and their promised or demonstrated solution.
Capacity, or available financial resources, is the weakest indicator of inclination to give. But it’s often where organizations begin their prospect development and commit their attention and time.
Other authors have offered different trinities – propensity/affinity/capacity or linkage/ability/interest, as examples. But the general lesson is the same: A financial donation is more than a transaction, it’s an expression of connection and concern. Successful efforts to find and retain donors will start with the heart and the head rather than reaching for the wallet.
p.s. Thanks to my brilliant colleague Sherburne Laughlin who taught me all of this!
From the ArtsManaged Field Guide
Function of the Week: Governance
Governance involves structuring, sustaining, and overseeing the organization's purposes, resources, and goals (often through boardsor trustees).
Framework of the Week: Connection Concern Capacity
The holy trinity of prospect and donor development that beings with those already emotionally connected to your organization and those aligned with the concerns you address in the world, and then considers their capacity to give.
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