Late last year I wrote about the billboards, posters and other media currently being utilized in a campaign to generate support for public education in Los Angeles. I wasn’t a big fan of the campaign (which portends an “or else” doomsday scenario) as a means of garnering donor support, but it certainly is striking.
Words to live by…
This week I saw a photo making its way around the Web of a much simpler billboard . This one, done by hand by someone on a message board outside what appears to be a typical suburban strip mall, strikes me as being much more inspirational than the negativity of the previously referenced campaign.
This simple message doesn’t involve a multi-million campaign, scare tactics, or shock media. It’s just a thought from someone who wanted to spread a positive message.
It reminds me of a quote I’ve often referenced in the past:
“It takes a noble man to plant the seed for a tree that will one day provide shade to people he may never meet.” – Dr. David Trueblood, philosopher and writer
The essence of philanthropy is embodied in the above quote and on that sign pictured above. Sometimes simple, positive messages carry much more weight than complicated negative ones.
Maybe I’m old-fashioned. I’ve always believed in, and preached the importance of, inspiring donors to give. I believe donors tend to give to causes in which they believe, and in which they are inspired to invest. And I believe donors invest in organizations that exhibit success in what they do, particularly when it comes to education. Powerful storytelling backed by verifiable data yield great returns. Connecting a donor’s passion with a cause’s needs and opportunities – without overstating results – lead to positive experiences for all.
One of the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education’s “Catastrophe” billboards
The top 20 fundraising colleges and universities, for example, are a mixed bag of public and private institutions. Some are large research institutions, others are smaller liberal arts colleges (though all on the list have large research components, and significant grant income in addition to alumni support). Aside from sharing the trait that they’ve effectively cultivated donors and stewarded their gifts for many years (in some cases centuries), they also share another trait: they all attract philanthropic support based on their ability to exhibit institutional excellence. They inspire donors to invest in their work and illustrate the positive impact that work ultimately has in the lives of their students, their communities, and the world. Continue reading