Four tough questions behind truth-filled tales of organizational impact

Heads up, nonprofit leader. The team over at Oneicity would have you do more with your appeal letters than simply regale donors (potential or ongoing) with tales of organizational triumphs. Their advice? Tell the folks from whom you hope to get a gift  “what happens if your work doesn’t go on.”

Here’s more of the message from Oneicity:

Hopefully, when you communicate with your donors (and prospective donors) you help them understand the problem your ministry solves. I’m sure you tell them how you go about dealing with the problem. Maybe you even tell them how they will be different and better by joining in your cause.

But do you tell them what happens if your work doesn’t go on? Of course, it’s not about budget or guilt. It’s about helping people who love you understand the consequences of their inaction.


These are great suggestions from Oneicity — assuming, of course, that anyone other than those receiving a paycheck from your organization would notice or mourn its demise.

Given the glut of nonprofit start-ups, it’s tough to stand out from the pack. There may have been a time when a mission statement and a mailing address were a sufficient case for support, but no longer.

These days, donors expect more substance than spin when considering their gift giving. You’ve got to show them the beef, if you expect them to bite.

Assuming, of course, there’s beef to be shown.


Before asking others to get behind your organization, you and your board need to step back and ask yourselves four critical question. (Brutal honesty in shaping the answers is a must.)

  • In your heart of hearts, are you convinced that the organization addresses an essential need?
  • In your heart of hearts, are you convinced the organization is addressing that need with excellence?
  • How do you know what you think you know? What are the data behind your declarations?
  • What must you do tomorrow in follow-up to how you answered these questions today?

Truthfulness about organizational impact is essential — to donors and to yourself. Anything else is an air sandwich.


  1. Thanks for the shoutout and affirmation. You do such a great work it’s an hour to be quoted on your blog! Keep up the great work.

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