Why Trumps What

June 28, 2016

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Written By: sara

By Sara Luke

In this series, the DBD Team will take a deeper look at some of the axioms we use when working with our clients. In today’s blog, Sara Luke reflects on our axiom: “Why Trumps What.”

There’s a great Ted talk that illustrates a concept we talk about a lot with our non-profit clients…that why trumps what if you want to inspire and motivate people to support your organization. In this clip, leadership expert and author of “Start With Why,” Simon Sinek explains his idea of the Golden Circle. (It’s worth the 18 minutes, but skip to minutes 2-5 if you want a quick overview of the concept.)

Repeatedly, he hammers home his point, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” His concept is 100% applicable to the case development work we do every day with our non-profit clients.

Most leaders can talk about the what all day long:

  • We provide free tutoring for children in low-income neighborhoods.
  • We award $5 million in college scholarships annually.
  • We deliver hot meals to elderly people who are unable to prepare meals.
  • We’re building a new 70,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.

But the why is what will inspire a donor to care and to give.

Water.org does a brilliant job in illustrating why the work they do is so important:

We believe water is the way. To break the cycle of poverty. To achieve global equality. To make a bright future possible for all. We are here to break down the barriers between people and access to safe water and sanitation.

Certainly more inspiring than the (necessary) what: “Water.org provides innovative, market-based solutions that change lives every day through safe water and sanitation.”

Of course, you must inform your donors what you do. But if you want to move beyond their heads and get to their hearts, share your why.

Inevitably in our case development work when we push past the what, non-profits leaders know their why. They live and breathe it every day and assume that because they know why the work is so important, so will everyone else. They just need a little help articulating it.

So how can you find your why? Ask yourself a few questions:

  • How are people’s lives made better or changed because of the work you do?
  • If you didn’t exist, how would the community be different?
  • What is your greater vision for the future and how does the work you do help you reach that vision?
  • So what? When you look at your list of whats (“We provide free tutoring for children in low-income neighborhoods.”) ask yourself “So what?” until you get to the core of why it really matters. Because this is what your prospects are thinking until you convince them your what really makes a difference.

And a great way to find your why? Ask some of your most committed volunteers and donors why they support you. You’ve obviously motivated and inspired them, now hear what they have to say about your organization.

 

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3 responses to “Why Trumps What”

  1. jon Jon Simons says:

    Thanks Sara! Everyone reading this needs to print it, forward it, and keep it close at hand. Until staff and volunteers get comfortable and confident sharing their “why”, fundraising will always be limited.

  2. John C. Alexander says:

    Sara, I agree with Jon….great reminders of why the “why” should be our focus!!!