My family took a trip to Washington, DC this past weekend to attend a wonderful performance of "Bye Bye Birdie" at my niece's high school (shout out to Jill Ford for her outstanding portrayal of Rosie). It was a special evening and worth the hours hours of stop and go traffic to DC and back.
On Saturday afternoon, prior to the evening show, we set out for some some sightseeing. At the urging of a neighbor, we decided to tour the Newseum, an interactive museum that lets visitors experience the stories of yesterday and today through the eyes of the media while celebrating the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment. I admit that I was apprehensive to load six other people in my SUV and wind my way across town, weaving in and out of ridiculous DC traffic, having cars honk every time the cautious southern driver in me came out, and worrying where in the world I would find a place to park! By the time we arrived at our destination, I found myself wondering if any museum would be worth all of this anxiety. It was!
Allow me put in a shameless plug for this wonderful museum. The exhibits grab your attention and bring back many powerful memories of events that have happened during my lifetime, and events that shaped the world that I grew up in. I encourage anyone to make the trip. It will be worth your time!
Which brings me finally to my point...
Making an experience "worth it" for those you seek to engage in your mission is something that deserves every nonprofit's best effort. First and foremost, those you serve deserve your very best at making sure your mission and services effectively meet their needs. Likewise, whenever you offer donors or prospective donors a tour of your newest museum exhibit, hospital wing, refurbished science building on campus, the neighborhood community garden, or the affordable housing project, the experience should be memorable. Whenever you invite your donors to your black tie gala, golf tournament, or cocktail party, the experience should be fun, socially engaging and worthy of their time and the price of admission. Every story you tell and every solicitation you make through direct mail, email, proposals, and newsletters should be compelling, mission-centered, and worth the time and attention you ask for from those who read it. Every personal visit you ask for should be filled with topics of real interest to the donor. Every thank you letter, recognition opportunity, and other forms of donor appreciation should be heart-felt, sincere, and worthy of the generosity your organization has received.
I know that it's impossible to hit the proverbial entertainment or emotional home run with every encounter you have with your supporters. But you owe it to the people you serve and the donors you depend on to give it your best effort. The time and energy you put in will ultimately make it worthwhile for your organization!