The Power of Vision

Twenty years ago, as a young executive director the board I worked for put together a strategic plan for reaching African-American students in our community. Prior to my time as the executive director, they had tried to reach these more marginalized students but taking on this challenge had proved to be too difficult and would always end in needing to shut the work down due to a lack of funds. The board at the strategic planning retreat said that they wanted to identify funds to start this work using non-traditional resources so that they would be sustainable for the long term.

The fundamental framework of Taking Donors Seriously is Case, Leadership, Prospects Strategy and Plan. A good case statement has ten distinct elements. One of the elements is “vision for the future.” Because the board had the “vision for the future” to start work with poor African American kids I included this on the vision page of the case statement. During a meeting with a major donor a few weeks later the donor said

“ I didn’t know you wanted to work with poor African American kids here in our town” and went on to say that he was on the board of a foundation that was established in the late 1800’s by a Buckingham Smith looking to fund work to reach African American kids in our community.

So what do we learn from this? A fundraising case is an essential when raising money, having a bold vision that comes out of a strategic plan is important, that you have current donors that have more capacity through their extended relationships then you know, and that if you look at a problem in a slightly different way, you often will get different results.

That foundation has been giving now for over twenty years and has given almost $1M to that work as it continues to give strong today.