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December 12, 2022


How to Turn Your "Just a" Supporters into Friends Who Care


In this week’s Systems Change Newsletter…

  • Invitations & Announcements
  • Catalytic Thinking Exercise: How to Turn Your “Just a” Supporters Into Friends Who Care
  • Resources to Further Your Practice
  • Story of the Week: Catalytic Thinking in ACTION

Invitations & Announcements:
Live Catalytic Thinking Conversations This Week
Last week kicked off the live Zoom conversations about what’s next for Creating the Future – and WOW have these conversations been energizing! There are two more conversations scheduled this week, with a few seats left in each. Be part of the conversation…

Catalytic Thinking Exercise: How to Turn Your “Just a” Supporters into Friends Who Care

You can tell a lot about an organization’s true values by how they treat their “just a” people.

We all know these individuals. We hear them say things like...

I’m just a volunteer.
I’m just a neighbor.
I’m just a small customer / donor / supporter.

And while your response to those individuals is likely to be some comforting form of "There are no small gifts! Every donation / every volunteer hour matters!"...

In reality, how do you treat those individuals who don’t have power or money or influence? Do you treat them differently than those with lots of cash?

Do you lavish the same attention on “just a volunteer” who provides the actual thing you need – their time and skills – as you lavish on a donor who provides the cash equivalent? Do you honor your $20 donors in the same way you honor a $20,000 donor?

In truth, even in organizations dedicated to eliminating systemic poverty, we treat wealthy individuals as if they were the key to our success.

What if that assumption simply isn’t true? What if, more than money, the key to creating real, systemic change is an army of supporters of all kinds, linking arms together to accomplish something bigger than any one person or group can create – no matter how much money they have?

And if that is true, what can you do right now to begin building that kind of support?

During this year-end fundraising season, you can take one big step right now:

Recognize and honor the people who are already donating, volunteering, patronizing your enterprises and institutions.

Not the big ones. The “just a’s.”

Try this:
Ten years ago, Hildy penned an article titled, Turning Donors into Friends Who Care. In that piece, she noted,

A friend is not someone who gives you money. A friend is someone who cares. Someone who would feel pain if something bad happened to the work you are trying to do. Someone who feels that your mission is their mission and will work to ensure that mission is accomplished.

And to make that kind of friend, you need to make a real live engaged connection.

What does that mean? It could be as simple as this (from that same article):

List all your donors. Sort them by dollar gift. Take the top 1/4 of those donor names, and set them aside. If you are like most organizations, you are already engaging those folks plenty.

Now look at the other 3/4 of your existing donors. Starting from the bottom up – yup, from the $5 donor and the $10 donor – call each one of them, until you are done. Take the week. Take the month. Call each one and say Thank You.

Call and ask if they would like to take a tour of your facility.

Call and ask if they would like to have coffee, so you can learn more about their feelings about your community’s issues, and your community’s potential. Or if they would like to be part of a group coffee, getting to know others who care about what you care about.

If yours is an arts or education organization – perhaps a museum or a symphony – call and ask if they would like free passes to your latest exhibit, or your latest performance. You weren’t sold out anyway, so why not show the people who care about you that you care back?

NOT because they will give you more money. But because that’s what friends do.

You will note that none of this is efficient. It is not supposed to be. Friendships are deeply inefficient, what with having to be there for each other and all that. What a time consuming effort!

But when you need help, these are the people you can count on.

Just like in real life.

That is why, of only 3 core tenets in Catalytic Thinking, one of those tenets states, “The most favorable conditions begin and end with bringing out the best in people vs. focusing on stuff.” When we monetize our relationships, we are focusing on the stuff, through a lens of short-term, scarcity-driven survival.

So stop thinking about bigger and better gifts for your “best” supporters. And start treating ALL your supporters like real friends.

Resources to Support Your Practice:

  • READ: “The Sound a Thank You Makes” shares the story of picking up the phone and calling those small donors. Read it here…
  • WATCH: Psychology professor Robert Emmons talks about gratitude as a way of life. Watch here...
  • READ: What is the difference between attracting wealthy donors and creating a movement for change? Read it here…

Story of the Week: Catalytic Thinking in ACTION

This week’s Catalytic Thinking story comes from community convener Elaine Capes.

“I was working with a group whose work focused on some pretty rugged outdoor recreation. They wanted to do some planning, but they had no vision statement, no mission statement… just a paragraph of gobbledy-goop on their member site. I could see no compelling reason for anyone to join this group.

To start the session, I asked their board members to share their best experience with the sport. I used the Catalytic Thinking “conditions for success” questions, asking what they felt, what they knew, what they experienced, what they remembered.

Of the 14 people in the room, 3 people cried… and 2 of those were men! From what they shared, I was able to craft a vision statement that had deep meaning to the group, all because of the questions I asked.”

Got a Catalytic Thinking story to share with our readers? Let us know here!

Help Keep Our Programs Freely Available
Most of the programs at Creating the Future are free or low cost, with liberal tuition assistance when they aren’t.

If you find our programs of benefit, we hope you will consider contributing, to help keep these programs available to as many people as possible.   Donate here ...

eJournal Archives:
If you’re new to our eJournal, or just want to remind yourself of past practice exercises we’ve shared, check out our eJournal archives here.

Creating the Future's Mission
Teach people how to change the systems they find themselves in,
to create a future different from our past -
all by changing the questions they ask.

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