While attending the wedding of our godson last month (congratulations Carter and Shelley), my wife and I had some time to visit with the officiating pastor who is also a longtime friend. We got into a conversation about marriage vows and particularly the Declaration of Intention in the service of worship: "Will you have this person to live together in holy marriage? Will you love, honor, and cherish...?" I told him I remembered my vows using the phrase “Do you” instead of “Will you” and asked about this change. He shared that the significance of using the word “will” vs. “do” is that we know that we can do those things today, but will we be committed to those things in a year, or five, or fifty? It is a pronouncement of the intention to continue to keep these vows moving into the future and that makes the vows more significant and the covenant more binding. The difference is subtle but significant to me. And I see it applying to relationships and commitments we all make beyond the sacred vows of marriage. As nonprofit leaders and philanthropists of all shapes and sizes, I invite you to start this new year by committing to more significant and lasting relationships of your own. Nonprofit leaders, I ask you these questions: Will you commit to creating a vision and strategic plan for serving your community, state, nation or world that is focused on impact and outcomes vs. inputs and outputs?
Will you be steadfast in adhering to a set of core values that permeate your organization; evidenced through transparency and honesty in all that you do, sharing the good news as well as when we make mistakes - helping the community understand how we are working to correct them?
Will you be in regular communication with your donors, engaging throughout the year instead of sending desperate, last-minute, poorly written appeals?
Will you help all staff and board members appreciate the generosity of these givers, helping them recognize that the value donors bring extend well beyond their checkbooks? Donors, I ask you similar questions: Will you strive to become a stronger supporter of the causes and organizations you care most about, seeking opportunities to explore their work and asking questions to fully understand what it takes to accomplish their mission? Will you invest each year in supporting the annual campaign, ensuring that these organizations have a well-trained and fairly compensated staff, rock-solid HR and financial management systems, quality control measures and operational capacity, and the ability to effectively share its story of impact with others?
Will you be there through the good times and the tough times, recognizing that even the best organizations face challenges they must work to overcome?
Will you be open to supporting the special campaigns that are necessary from time to time to strengthen or expand services so these hard-working organizations can keep up with the ever-growing community needs?
If you each say, “I will”, then by the power invested in me as someone who believes in and cares deeply for our nonprofit sector, I pronounce you partners in helping to make your community and our world a better place. Happy New Year and may you have a prosperous 2018!