Recently I got the chance to take a tour of Pacific Rim Christian University, in Honolulu, and to meet their president, Kent M. Keith. While visiting this small Christian college, I learned that President Keith was the person who wrote the ‘Do It Anyway’ Paradoxical Commandments that many of us have heard came from Mother Theresa. It was the late sixties when Keith wrote the small booklet that included these lines:
- People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
- If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
- If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
- The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
- Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
- The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
- People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
- What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
- People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
- Give the world the best you have and you will get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
While I could write my blog post on these very inspiring lines, that is not the point of this blog. Instead, I want to focus on the origin story of these lines, because it shows that our work has a much more significant (and longer-term) impact than what we do or accomplish today.
These inspiring lines are commonly attributed to Mother Teresa, but she was not the person who wrote them. At some point, someone pulled these lines from the booklet that Kent Keith wrote. Apparently, Mother Teresa hung them up on her wall, and someone mistakenly attributed them to her. Meanwhile, Kent Keith knew nothing about this, until someone sent him the Paradoxical Commandments– twenty years after he first wrote them! He had no idea that what he had written was going viral around the world. This story illustrates perfectly how our work can have a lifetime value – long-term effects that are far more powerful than what we dream or imagine.
Storytelling is an essential part of fundraising. Don’t limit your storytelling to the present. In working with clients, I often encourage them to not only include the impact of what they are doing today, but also the impact of this work on the future. What will be true because of the work you are doing today? Kent Keith had no idea that what the effect of his writing would be. But the work we are doing today will affect tomorrow. Sometimes we get inspiring glimpses of how our work reaches into the future to change lives. I refer to this as the “lifetime value” of your organization. Lifetime value is one of ten elements that I recommend for inclusion in your case statement and other ongoing communication with donors.
So if you happened to write something that inspired Mother Teresa, or your organization happened to rescue J.C. Penney from the streets of New York City (The Bowery Mission did this, long before J.C. Penney started his famous department store), then you should feature those stories. Illustrate how your work is impacting people for a lifetime. Of course, most of us don’t have stories about Mother Teresa or J.C. Penney, but all of us have stories of real people whose lives have been touched, changed, or transformed by the work we are doing. These individuals’ stories show the long-term, very real impact that your work will have on the future.