Specificity Sells

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

A CEO of a small nonprofit once told me that he had finally secured a meeting with a prospective major donor that he had been trying to engage for years.

 The meeting started out great!

 The CEO was confident in explaining the nonprofit’s mission and programs and the philanthropist seemed very engaged and interested.

 Then the philanthropist asked, “What would you do if I gave you one million dollars?”

 The CEO froze. This wasn’t a question he anticipated.

 In the end, the CEO provided a vague answer, and the meeting came to a close. The philanthropist ended up giving a small gift but nowhere near the amount the CEO had hoped for. The CEO couldn’t help but think this was a missed opportunity.

So … What would you do with one million dollars? Or five million?

It might not be a question you get every day, but it’s worthwhile considering the long-term vision for your nonprofit. What would you like to achieve?

Hopefully, this type of thinking forces a very important piece of good planning – specificity.

Thinking big is not enough. If we want to achieve big things, we need some specifics. A vision without a plan is a daydream. And most donors know this. They are not interested in throwing their money to a vague good idea. They want to know their money will work.

Remember, they are passionate about the problem you are trying to solve, and they want you to have the solution.

So, after you capture a donor’s imagination with a big idea, be prepared for specific, business-like questions that may follow such as:

  • Who else works in your space and what makes your nonprofit unique?
  • Why is your work important and urgent?
  • What are your plans for growth? In what timeframe? How much will it cost?
  • How do you measure your success?
  • And what would you do with $1 million today?

Dr. Peter Frumkin, Faculty Director of the Center for Social Impact Strategy at the University of Pennslyvania, wrote, “All the clever positioning in the world will not help a nonprofit that is unclear about its objectives and why they should matter to others.”

In short, specificity sells. Be ready.

We help good nonprofits answer these types of questions every day. Get in touch, if we can help you!

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

Subscribe to our free ACF Nonprofit Partner blog for insights to help your nonprofit thrive.