So often fundraising relies on a worthy mission statement to attract and retain philanthropic donors. The mission statement alone only communicates what your organization exists to do. This statement can potentially activate giving, but will not activate transformational gifts. Instead, we must be clear to donors what the impact of their gift will be.
Donors may not have thought about the picture of the world they want to leave behind, but your messaging can invite them to consider it for the first time. This is what unlocks significant generosity from individuals and institutions.
ESEs have a unique messaging challenge in that:
- Many audiences do not recognize the social mission of the organization and rather see it as a traditional business.
- Audiences that are aware of the social mission believe that philanthropic donations are not necessary if I am supporting the business as a customer.
Thus, it is imperative for ESEs to create messages that communicate the transformational work occurring within their workforce programming. This is not a marketing exercise as much as it is distilling the core impact of your programs. The following overview offers guidance on the types of messages that convert audiences and customers into lifelong donors.
Problem: The challenge that your organization was built to address.
Solution: Your intervention, your disruption of status quo.
Missional Goal: The bite sized pieces you’re taking out of the impact statement within a short term period of time (3-5 years). They describe the quality of the impact you are planning to achieve within your programs at large.
Impact Statement: A summary of what it looks like if you knock it out of the park on your mission within your organization’s lifetime.
Output: Outputs measure the churn of our activities, the quantity of your work.
Outcome: Outcomes measure the quality of those activities. The way people’s lives were changed.
What makes fundraising messaging compelling?
Tech startup entrepreneurs are famous (and infamous) for their willingness to make bold claims. They are working to definitively solve problems: access to transportation, access to information, breaking down language barriers, and affordable places to stay when traveling. Arguably what makes them successful is their willingness to commit to solving the problem. These entrepreneurs are not launching a company to lend a hand to a problem. They are bringing new solutions. As a result, their investors are equally bold.
They are investing in companies who have the capacity to fundamentally change the way the world lives. As Peter Diamandis says in Bold, “the best way to become a billionaire is to solve a billion person problem.”
Microsoft: “When Paul Allen and I started Microsoft over 30 years ago, we had big dreams about software. We had dreams about the impact it could have. We talked about a computer on every desk and in every home.”
SpaceX: “Enable human exploration and settlement of Mars.”
Nike: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
These leaders are launching companies with the explicit purpose of disrupting an industry.
It is only recently that the nonprofit sector has followed suit. In our experience, many nonprofit leaders hedge their bets. Their sustainability depends on funders who ask for SMART goals, an acronym that describes realism and reinforces the value of tangible progress. Very few funders ask for audacious goals, or the new solution to an old problem. As a result, the leaders we meet often begin with phrases like “let’s start small,” “what’s realistic,” and “practically speaking.” Understandably, these leaders are working on deeply rooted challenges that have no foreseeable solution: hunger, a failing education system, criminal justice reform, the climate crisis, and the refugee crisis, to name a few. And yet, they are not leading with the question Google co-founder Larry Page is famous for asking: “Why not bigger?”
The good news is, we are seeing an emergence of new nonprofit leaders who are willing to take risks with the claims they stake:
Share Our Strength: End childhood hunger by 2015
KaBOOM!: End playspace inequity for good
Charity:Water: Solve the water crisis within our lifetime
New Story: House 1M people in Latin America by 2030
Compare these goals to common mission statements that use phrases like “empower youth,” “address poverty,” or “support our neighbors”; it’s no wonder that most nonprofits struggle to raise money. In 2022, 68% of nonprofits reported a decrease in funding.
Seed Fundraisers conducted a study looking at the relationship between bold goals and donor engagement. The results indicated that there is a statistically significant correlation between a nonprofit’s willingness to disrupt the status quo and the growth of their donor base.
A compelling fundraising message package, or case for support will contain:
- Problem/Solution Statement
- Impact Statement
- Missional Goals
Problem and Solution Statement
Before an organization can claim a particular impact statement, it first must distill the problem it is designed to solve. In fact, designers say falling in love with the problem you’re trying to solve is even better. We have found that the answer to the question, “What problem are you designed to solve,” evolves throughout the course of an organization’s lifecycle:
Start up phase (responding to a felt need): problem is broad, distilling it feels limiting, solution is specific and clear
- Example: Homelessness is a problem in our community, thus we will start a coffee shop to employ homeless people.
Growth phase (more nuanced understanding of the problem): problem is more nuanced than before, solution is bolder
- Example: Unemployment for homeless people is caused by lack of supportive services that sustain employment, solution is to provide wrap around services and employment.
Refining phase (response to systemic root problem): problem is more systemic in nature, solution is more advocacy focused
- Example: Homelessness is caused by economic factors driven by policymakers; the solution is to do both direct service and advocacy.
Maturing phase (doubling down on a specific lever): problem is best solved through specialization
- Example: Homelessness will continue as long as policymakers are not well resourced and held accountable; the solution is to generate grassroots and technical support for policymakers.
Depending on where you are in your organization’s lifecycle, you may notice that your definition of the problem you are solving has evolved. As you work to craft your problem and solution statement, you’ll notice that it’s difficult to distill it. It’s easy to describe what you do, but when you identify a problem you’re interested in solving, it may not be the problem your organization is designed to solve. It’s helpful to differentiate between these two things.
- What problems are you and your teammates passionate about in your field? Make a list.
- When you think about your organization’s programming, what problems are your programs directly addressing currently? Make a list.
- What problem is your organization best positioned to address? Distill the list down to one core problem.
- What is your organization’s unique solution to that problem?
- Note: you may need to undergo some redesign work in order to be prepared to bring that solution, but this is where you begin.
Institutional racism has created generational social and economic disparities for Black communities, which prevent whole person health. As a result, African American and Black communities lack equitable, culturally-responsive resources that support them in overcoming the root causes of health problems.
Overcoming the impact of institutional racism on whole person health for Black communities requires research-informed, culturally-responsive direct service, education, and advocacy. A trusted community advocate must provide equitable resources for this generation, and build towards lasting systemic change for the next.
Our country’s education and employment structures are largely outdated, ineffective, and inequitable, especially for youth on the margins. This leaves us vulnerable and inefficient as we train the next generation for the future economy.
Young adults disconnected from school and/or work are invited into a year-long apprenticeship as humble learners of life, self, and craft, within a high-standards enterprise. Through deep work and deep learning, apprentices build skills, mindsets, networks, and economic capital for sustainable careers, and most importantly, discover their own inherent greatness.
An impact statement is derived from the most distilled version of the problem your organization is designed to solve. Sometimes synonymous with your vision statement, this is the bold commitment your organization makes to the world.
Your impact statement should:
- Clarify to yourselves and everyone watching what it is that you do that sets you apart from everyone else.
- Be a bold statement that has the potential to fail.
- Serve as your organization’s north star.
- Guide decisions and clarify activities.
Nonprofit impact statements include the aforementioned examples around ending childhood hunger and solving the water crisis. Examples of ESE impact statements include:
- Neighborhood Industries: Community ownership will replace community poverty within neighborhood economies in California.
- Working Fields: Make stable employment possible for anyone in our community, no matter the systemic or personal barriers they may face.
- Sister Hearts: A decarceration program to accompany every institution that incarcerates.
- Draft your impact statement.
- Begin with the question: what would it look like if we were wildly successful with our organization’s mission?
- Try out phrases like “in our lifetime,” “see an end to,” “see the invention of,” “no more,” or “for all.”
- Refine your impact statement.
GOOD: We will ensure that the physical health benefits and social connection offered by the park are accessible and appealing to the entire community.
Why is it good? It claims to do something significant for an entire community.
BETTER: We will activate the park for the healing and integration of the entire community.
Why is it better? It claims to do something more difficult for the entire community. Healing and integration is a bigger job than ensuring health benefits and social connection.
BEST: We will reverse the systemic and deeply rooted access gap in our park.
Why is it best? It names the root problem, as controversial as it might be, and claims to fix it.
Missional goals or outcomes are the bite-sized pieces we are taking out of the impact statement within a refined period of time. They describe the quality of your work. They set the tone for what is important in your sector. We have found that the organizations changing the landscape of their sector are clear on the transformational qualities of their work. Often, these organizations rely on evidenced-based research to tell them which levers pulled in which succession will make a difference. They choose their missional goals to align with this research. For example, Stanford’s Social Psychology department teamed up with the Urban Institute and the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty to isolate three variables that create economic mobility: power and autonomy, being valued in community, and economic success. Organizations working on economic mobility might set three missional goals related to each of these three variables.
Missional Goals Should:
- Represent 2-5 years’ time to complete
- Describe the way lives, places, things are changed and transformed as a result of your best work
- Be measurable, not necessarily quantifiable
- Serve as a compelling invitation to donors (there’s a pressing timeline on it, and it could fail)
- Be summative: they speak to the core contribution you’re making to the field and, when held together, summarize your best work
- Be aspirational: if met, the organization will be at the cutting edge of their field
- 95% of program participants will recreate themselves measured by indicators of personal identity development.
- 68% of formerly incarcerated individuals completing our program will return to serve and mentor others.
- We will provide decarceration programming in 10 additional prisons.
- By 2026, 85% of the individuals we employ will demonstrate economic mobility.
- By 2026, 85% of the individuals we serve will increase earning power.
- By 2026, 85% of the individuals we serve will exit cycles of poverty.
Many times your goals are outputs of a series of program activities, rather than outcomes of a well-organized machine. Here’s a refresher on the difference:
Outputs measure the churn of our activities, the quantity of your work. Outcomes measure the quality of those activities. The way people’s lives were changed.
The quantity of your work.
How busy have we been?
The quality of your work.
How effective have we been?
|Average hourly wage||% of participants who experience economic mobility|
|# of youth enrolled in job readiness program||% of youth with increased workforce readiness|
|# of referrals made to partner organizations||% of community measuring whole person wellbeing|
|# coaching hours offered to local businesses||% of businesses in our region committed to decarceration-focused hiring|
|Retention rate in workforce programming||% of participants who increased preparation for the workplace|
- Start by organizing your work into the largest buckets or categories you have. Your various programs can be organized into categories.
- Individuals, businesses, communities
- People and land
- Economic health, mental health, physical health
- People and policy
- Do your research: If you’re not sure which categories to choose, take some time to research your field of work. You are looking for a validated framework. A validated framework is a decision researchers have made that has been determined to make meaningful change on a given issue. For example, a validated framework for exiting poverty is the measuring mobility framework as described above. Stanford’s Social Psychology department teamed up with the Urban Institute and the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty and isolated three variables that are found to create economic mobility: power and autonomy, being valued in community, and economic success. The categories you might choose for your missional goals might be power and autonomy, being valued in community, and economic success.
Examples of Validated Frameworks:
Economic mobility is a three-fold effort which includes earning power, belonging in community, and power and autonomy. ESEs can identify their unique ability to move the needle on these three components of exiting poverty. The toolkit also includes measurement instruments that track changes on the three efforts.
EMPATH BRIDGE TO SELF-SUFFICIENCY
The Bridge helps families plan, reach, and sustain their personal goals in five essential areas: family stability, well-being, education and training, financial management, and employment and career management.
LIFEWORKS SELF-SUFFICIENCY MATRIX
Self-sufficiency requires 24 domains of growth. The matrix outlines each domain with indicators of change to be tracked for individuals.
HARVARD CENTER ON THE DEVELOPING CHILD
Provides parameters that measure the impact your program is having on the systems a person is exposed to and the impact your program is having on individual self-regulatory and executive functioning skills. ESE programs working with youth can integrate the specific parameters into their programming.
EMPATH AND HARVARD’S EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING SKILLS
Provides specific characteristics of three components to executive functioning skills. ESE programs can design interventions that rebuild these skills on the job: impulse control, working memory, mental flexibility.
- Draft your goals to include:
- A time stamp
- Who will be impacted
- What is the subject of the transformation
- To what extent the transformation will take place
In the communities we work (who is impacted), 65% (to what extent) of adults will experience economic mobility (subject of the transformation) as a result of improved health, by 2024. (timestamp)
Example Goals by Outcome Category
|Economic growth||Increase in measures of financial stability; earning power||– By 2024, 75% of participants take the next step into a chosen career pathway that inspires them.|
– By 2024, 80% of participants will increase measures of socio-economic stability.
– By 2026, 85% of the individuals we employ will demonstrate economic mobility.
– By 2026, 85% of the individuals we serve will increase earning power.
– By 2026, 85% of the individuals we serve will exit cycles of poverty.
– By 2026, x people in (region) and (region) experiencing crisis will experience a decrease in stress related to their crisis.
– By 2026, 85% of individuals/families in crisis in Jackson Hole will experience emergency relief.
– By 2026, 85% of individuals/families in crisis in Jackson Hole will have access to stabilizing resources.
– By 2026, 30% of families/individuals we serve who are working to stabilize after a crisis will set personal goals; 20% will develop a six-month plan to avoid future crises.
– By 2026, X% of families/individuals we serve who are working to stabilize after a crisis will build essential reserves to avoid future crises.
– By 2026, X% of families/individuals we serve who are working to stabilize after a crisis will build a customized roadmap for self-sufficiency.
– By 2026, X% of the families/individuals we serve will report the ability to manage beyond the tyranny of the urgent.
– By 2026, X% of the families/individuals we serve will report increased autonomy in navigating systemic barriers within our community.
– By 2026, X% of individuals will decrease reliance on/need for emergency services.
|Increased belonging||Target audiences’ experience of inclusion; increased social capital||– By 2025, we will have built partnerships with new human service organizations who, through the assistance of our partnership, are now reporting that Centennial Park is increasingly utilized by families who traditionally felt excluded or uninterested.|
– By 2025, 60% of immigrant communities’ members in the Teton region report increased feelings of belonging and social capital.
|Healing||Psychological or whole person wellbeing is improved||– 50% of the adults we serve report an increase in the quality & character of their relationships with their child.|
– 95% of program participants will recreate themselves measured by indicators of personal identity development
– By 2026, 70% of individuals accessing direct services report improved whole person wellbeing.
– By 2026, 60% of the individuals we serve will measure improved health in their home environment.
– By 2026, 60% of the individuals we serve will repair at least one broken relationship in their personal life.
– By 2026, 75% of apprentices will repair/rebuild executive functioning skills impacted by chronic stress.
– 75% of apprentices will be able to reassess stressful situations and activate intentional self-regulation.
– 75% of apprentices will identify their own motivating goals which will override automatic responses.
– 75% of apprentices will demonstrate improved impulse control: be able to filter distractions, override impulses, maintain focus, pause and reflect before taking action, and maintain persistence in the face of worry or despair.
– 75% of apprentices will improve working memory: retain information from one place and connect it to information from another.
– 75% of apprentices will improve mental flexibility: multitask, adjust plans, re-establish priorities, apply different rules or social skills in different settings, translate between languages, alter strategies based on feedback, and innovate.
– By 2026, 75% of apprentices will experience support for their individual racial identity development.
– By 2026, 75% of apprentices will connect racial identity development with an increased sense of power or liberation
|Educational gains||Improved learning outcomes toward targeted educational frameworks||– By 2025, 85% of the children we serve will demonstrate increased capacity for innovation.|
– By 2025, we will create a replicable model for integrating play based learning into the Jackson Public Schools.
– By 2026, our academic program generates self-directed learning among 85% of the student body.
– By 2026, our academic program generates a love of learning among 85% of the student body.
– By 2026, 80% of our student body demonstrates growth mindsets.
– By 2026, 80% of the families we serve will no longer report basic stabilization needs interfering with their children’s education.
|Changed behaviors||An intervention causes an intended shift in daily routines; a disruption to a harmful status quo||– 50% of the adults we serve report an increase in the quality & character of their relationships with their child.|
– 90% of people who engaged in our programs completed a transformational act of leadership in their own life.
– 95% of program participants will recreate themselves measured by indicators of personal identity development.
– 68% of formerly incarcerated individuals completing our program will return to serve and mentor others.
– As a result, by 2025, 80% of youth will increase in measures of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
– By 2025, 50% of the communities we serve become active participants in the solution to our climate crisis.
– By 2025, 75% of program participants make an action plan to commit to allyship.
– 80% of the businesses we serve will create highly disability inclusive practices by 2025.
– By 2025, 80% of organizations that conduct community research with Voices JH will institute policies and programs that create positive systems change for immigrant communities
|Changed perspectives||Mindsets are shifted toward intended outcomes||– By 2025, we will effectively shift the public narrative into three additional social sectors which will understand and value the human-animal bond. |
– By 2025, our partners will report that the individuals they served are 80% more likely to experience leisure as a result of their partnership with the park.
|Spiritual growth||Changes in spiritual wellbeing||– By 2022, 80% of inmates who participate in our programs will share/transmit hopeful purpose to their prison relationships as a result of their spiritual growth.|
|Increased knowledge or skill||Audience recognition that a problem exists; improved ability to act in a desired way||– 90% of City Kids youth will report feeling more deeply connected to DC’s green spaces, as well as more competent and confident in the skills they are learning as a result of the program.|
– As a result, by 2025, 80% of youth will increase in measures of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
Additional Resources: Do you want to spend more time on this?
6 min: Read Seed’s blog post on Disrupting the Status Quo.
20 min: Seed’s online microcourse on Missional Goals.
Seed is a community of professional fundraisers and nonprofit leaders who strengthen and scale culture-building institutions in the social sector. Seed’s consulting team has supported REDF’s portfolio since 2019.