Is Your Nonprofit a Pit Bull or Labrador Retriever?

In Featured, Marketing & Ministry by Jodi Carlson

Some dogs are cute. Some dogs bite.

What about your nonprofit?

To your donors, are you a pit bull with bite? Or are you an approachable lab with tail wag? Let’s look at these two puppies and see how you might make changes to ensure you’re effectively acquiring and cultivating your donors.

The Pit Bull Nonprofit

Most people don’t exactly flock toward pit bulls. At best they’re intimidating. To the extreme they’re vicious attack dogs. One source cites, of the fatal dog attacks in 2016, pit bulls accounted for 71 percent.

Other personality traits include their confidence, aggressiveness, tendency to show off and no-nonsense approach to life.

How might your nonprofit be like a pit bull?

First off, do your donors and potential donors hesitate to interact with you because they perceive you’re going to bite? Biting can mean any number of things to different donors. But the point is that biting inflicts pain. And no one wants pain, so they seek to avoid it. Can you think of ways your organization may be creating an uncomfortable, even painful, experience for your donors, thereby positioning yourself to lose funding?

Let’s also examine how the above listed pit bull personality traits might apply to your nonprofit:

  • Confidence — Do you come across as self-sufficient, lacking need for new or returning partners?
  • Aggressive — Are you so determined in your fundraising that you ask without building a compelling case for support?
  • Tendency to show off — Are you so absorbed in your mission that you demand the spotlight, and fail to recognize and inspire your donors?
  • No-nonsense approach to life — Do you lack joy in your work and fail to attract donors because what you do sounds, well, boring?

If any of the above applies to your nonprofit, hope is not lost. You may need to simply move your reputation the way of the Labrador retriever.

The Labrador Retriever Nonprofit

You see them everywhere. Maybe you own one yourself. Generally, people are attracted to Labrador retrievers. Most people want to reach out and give them a hello pat, usually in response to the happy welcome Fido first extended.

No doubt about it, labs are friendly. You might also describe them as intelligent, outgoing, useful, even-tempered, gentle, trustworthy, agile and kind.

Labs are so well loved, they’ve topped the charts of the American Kennel Club’s “Most Popular Dog Breeds in America” list for 26 years in a row.

How is your nonprofit like a Labrador retriever? Do your donors see you through a lens that makes them want to reach out and interact with you? Do they light up at the mention of your name? Would they use similar adjectives to describe your organization?

  • Intelligent — Is your mission smart, effective?
  • Outgoing — Do you welcome partnerships of every kind, dollars small and large?
  • Useful — Is your work accomplishing tangible change in the world?
  • Even-tempered — Do you knee-jerk react in tumultuous times, blowing needs out of proportion, or do you stay steady?
  • Gentle — Are your arms wide open and inviting to new donors? Do you nurture current donors?
  • Trustworthy — Do your donors trust you with their dollars?
  • Agile — Are you stuck in the ’90s, or even ideas from three years ago? Or are you up with the times?
  • Kind — Are you defined by a spirit of gratefulness for your donors?

Overall, labs make amazing family companions. Is your organization one that an individual or family loves telling others about? Do they welcome you into their home, leaving your newsletters out on the coffee table for extended viewing?

And did you know that most guide dogs are labs? More than 70 percent, in fact. Do your donors see you as their guide? Do you communicate in such a way that your donors are the star of the show, not you? You are merely their guide, someone who empowers them to do life-changing work by partnering with you. This brings them joy and fulfillment…and the desire to stick with you.

Ask the right questions about your organization and you can earn yourself a doggie treat…donors who not only want to play ball with you, but will call on their friends to join the fun.