Leading from the Inside Out

Last week the American Civil Liberties Union shattered fundraising records when they received more than 350,000 online donations totaling $24 million. They typically raise about $4 million online in a year, according to Executive Director Anthony Romero (source: Alia E. Dastagir, USA TODAY Published 6:09 p.m. ET Jan. 29, 2017). That’s a 1900% increase from 2016 to 2017. All in one month.

One of those ACLU donors was our very own Jenny, who says:

“I typically give locally rather than nationally, but when I saw what was happening as a result of the ban on Muslims entering the U.S., giving to the ACLU was a way to express my activism. I don’t know everything the ACLU does, but I know they will represent my values.”

The ACLU’s Romero says, “It’s really clear that this is a different type of moment. People want to know what they can do. They want to be deployed as protagonists in this fight. It’s not a spectator sport.”

What do we make of this trend? And what are the implications for our local organizations?

Philanthropy is a form of social activism and the ultimate expression of a person’s values. If you want people to give to you – not just their dollars, but their loyalty – you need to position your organization as one that leads with its values. This is a moment of national urgency, and if you can find ways to actively communicate your values to your donors, you are going to be in the lead.

This week’s “Do-Gooder Shout-Out” goes to a local organization that’s leading with its values and communicating those values clearly to their donors. Shout-Out to Lisa Shipek, Executive Director at Watershed Management Group. Lisa sent this letter to her donors. In it she says:

“I’m writing to share that together we can create unity, peace, and progress around water and watershed health. WMG is launching four resolutions as a counter current to the disturbing trends of anger and insecurity. We at WMG believe that in this political moment, we should – instead of pointing fingers – turn inward and ask what we can do to improve ourselves, our neighborhoods and our communities.”

Lisa frames her organization’s values and beliefs beautifully, and ties them directly to actions the organization will take, with the help of those who share their beliefs. There is no “ask” in this letter, but there is a clear call to action to live out your beliefs by supporting the work of WMG. Lisa is what Simon Sinek calls, in his classic TED talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Great Action,” an inspired leader:

Inspired leaders and the inspired organizations – regardless of their size, regardless of their industry – all think, act and communicate from the inside out…  There are leaders and there are those who lead.  Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us.  Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to.  We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves.  And it’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.”

Here at Alexander | Carrillo Consulting, we encourage you to “lead from the inside out” by taking these steps:

1) Clarify your organization’s values. Create a values statement that outlines exactly which values your organization is founded upon. Start by asking your board, staff, volunteers, and donors: Why do we exist? What do we believe? Find your best wordsmith and ask them to write it up into a formal values statement to be adopted by the board. See a Sample Values Statement (thanks to Youth on their Own).  Notice that a values statement is not a political statement.

2) Communicate your values to your donors. Send them a letter and enclose the new Values Statement. Post your Values on your website. Find ways to incorporate values in your regular communications. Try starting a sentence with “If, like us, you believe ____, then we have the perfect project for you to support.

3) Show people how you will “deploy them as protagonists” in the achievement of your mission. What can people do to support your mission? Sign a pledge, volunteer for an event, attend a lecture, share information on social media, or make a gift.

Jenny, Hanna, and I are deeply committed to our own organization’s values, the first of which is “the success of our clients and quality of life in our community“.  If we can help you in any way to lead from the inside out and find your community of believers, please let us know.

With gratitude for your tireless work in our community,

Laura Headshot 2014

Laura Alexander