Doing things for the greater good requires resources. All nonprofits know that. And acquiring resources can be quite a challenge. It is one of the topics many people write me about. And in one form or another, very often my answer has something to do with impact. Sharing the impact you achieve (or seek) speaks louder to a potential donor than your long list of activities. In short, impact is why you are doing what you are doing.

Donors dream…

In dealing with potential donors, you must always keep in mind that they have dreams that your work may help fulfil. Supporting you and the work your nonprofit does feels like contributing to their own dreams coming true. If, of course, your work is aligned to their dreams.

…about activities?

So you must find out what your donor’s dreams are. And you must be able to present your work at the level of those dreams. So that it can become clear whether your work is aligned to their dreams – or not. Many nonprofits are very keen to speak about their activities, about all the zillions of things they do. And about the many things they plan. Very often, in fundraising nonprofits are action oriented. Wanting to show how much they are capable of doing.

Donors dream about impact!

But activities are not what dreams are made of. Dreams are made of visions of a possible future. Something to invest in, if it looks juicy enough. Dreams are about what will be different in the world, after all the activities are completed. Dreams are about the effect of the work done on the people involved and the world at large. In other words, dreams are about the impact of what you do, provide and produce.


To see of visualize the impact of what you (plan to) do, you need to take a step back. You need to move away from the activities and the outputs you are producing. And you need to look at what will be different, after you are done. This change is likely the thing that drives you to the work you do. It is likely aligned with your mission and your vision that you want to contribute to becoming a reality. Therefore, impact is likely why you are doing what you are doing.



Eh what?

Maybe this all sounds very abstract. Let’s see if we can make it more concrete. Impact is not the school lessons you help girls attend. Impact is not ‘only’ the fact that as a result of school, these girls may be able to read. The impact might be that they might become financially independent because of their skills. That they are able to make their own choices about their future. Or that they can reach positions where they can help make the country a better place to live. Possibly even that they can show girls what women can achieve in this world.

But what to choose then?

As you see, there are many possible impacts, stemming from a simple activity of providing classes to girls. Your focus will likely be on an impact that is aligned to why you chose to provide education to girls in the first place. That does not mean that you cannot speak about other impacts to a donor whose dreams focus on something slightly different than yours. As long as you are sure that their dreams will be fulfilled by your work, even if that may not be your driving force to do the work.

Next steps

Before you reach out to any potential donor:

  1. Discuss with your team about why you are doing the activities you are doing and formulate the why as an impact – a future someone might like to invest in if this is important to them, too.
  2. Brainstorm with your team about other possible impacts you may help bring about with your activities. Which possible donors might be interested in these?
  3. Work out how you can communicate more about the impact(s) you are having, rather than about the activities you are doing.

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