It is Important to Tell Success Stories

by | Jan 24, 2018 | Formation, Systemic change

Telling our success stories is a key to moving past the impasse of “no margin-no mission”

Mission or Margin

“No Margin, No Mission” is frequently heard in non-profit circles, especially from those charged with safeguarding the long-term viability of a non-profit. The mantra reminds us that without funds it is difficult if not impossible to provide the services befitting our mission. And that is certainly true… but not the whole truth when it comes to appealing to donors.

In relatively recent times donors began to look at how efficient an organization was in stewarding their resources. So they began to look to various charity rating organizations and websites which tracked things like how much a charity spent on overhead and administration.

The picture is much more complex!

Unfortunately, some of our organizations that are making a huge impact may have what appears to be “poor financials” (high cost of administration, etc.) and at the same time, there are others that look good on paper but aren’t making nearly the impact donors believe they are making.

Connecting mission and margin

However, In more recent time donors are becoming even more sophisticated. They are now less unconcerned with overhead than with “impact.” No doubt they still look at overhead but they are asking a different kind of bottom line question. Their bottom line is not on dollars spent but on what happens as a result of every dollar spent. See sites which focus on what is called  “High Impact philanthropy.”

As the legendary business guru Peter Drucker stated many years ago—

“Non-profit institutions are human-change agents. Their product is a cured patient, a child that learns, a young man or woman grown into a self-respecting adult; a changed human life altogether.”

So true! Most nonprofit professionals including leaders of Vincentian Family organizations would prefer to be judged by the good work they perform. That is why so many committed themselves in the first place.

A Wall Street Journal article “Measuring the Bang of Every Donated Buck” — points beyond the impasse.

“Social return is about making charities and funders more effective based on firm evidence. Social return looks at the value created by the activity rather than just how much it costs to deliver.”

But the trick for Vincentian Family organizations is to tell that story to this new class of donors. But we need data to tell that story. And we need to tell the success stories of the people we serve. And… we need to tell the stories where people are gathered… on social media!

P.S. St. Vincent in his later years realized this. He was initially reluctant to share the letters from his missioners that told the story of the people served. But he eventually learned the poor could not afford our humility. When he told their stories to those who had means, their response was “let me help too.”

Financially Important questions

  • Do we keep records that really matter?
  • Do we tell the success stories of people whose lives have been changed?
  • Are we telling those stories where people see them… in social media?

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