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How to Communicate with Donors & Supporters

IMAG2832Do you know Ron Barb? Chances are you don’t, unless you’re from Logan County Kentucky or you work in the plastics industry. I didn’t know about Ron until today, when I read an article on newsdemocratleader.com that referenced him and the great work that he’s leading in Logan County. I was so impressed that I decided to share the article with the world – particularly those that work or volunteer in the Not-for-Profit, Independent Sector.

You may be wondering what can not-for-profits learn from a plant manager in the plastics industry. More than you realize my friends, more than you realize. You see Ron is the chairperson for the allocation committee for the United Way in Logan County. This isn’t his full time job – it’s a volunteer position that he assumes, like many others across the country, that are committed to doing what they can do to positively impact their local communities.

There are a few things that Ron and the entire team at the United Way of Southern Kentucky got right with this article that I think needs to be highlighted for the benefit of others in the sector – and not just United Ways, but anyone that’s attempting to communicate their value to stakeholders:

  1. The messenger is just as important as the message. Notice, the article isn’t referencing the CEO of the United Way or the other staff. They’re talking about Rob Barb, the volunteer committee chairperson, who has a full-time job as a plant manager. Sure the CEO could have been featured, but there are times when all organizations need to be strategic about whom the message is coming from. Last time I checked, plant managers are pretty busy people and the fact that Ron Barb devotes a portion of his valuable time to the United Way’s efforts speaks volumes to others regarding the importance of servant leadership.
  1. Thank donors/supporters in a meaningful manner. Ron does a phenomenal job thanking them and connecting them to the work of the United Way and their partner agencies. Consider this line from the article, “Your contributions have helped reach 7,956 individuals in Logan County last year alone, out of a little over 27,000 people in the county. You should be proud of yourselves.”  His message is directed to the Fiscal Court – a public body within the county – and Ron is thanking them and showing the impact of their contribution in a public forum. This is a meaningful “thank you” because public bodies get their fair share of public disgruntlement and disagreement, therefore it’s nice to appreciate them in public and give them a space to show the good they do.
  1. Quantify the good that was done. In this article, Ron is giving an update to the Logan County Fiscal Court on the impact that the United Way and their partner agencies are making through the supported allocated via the Fiscal Court. He’s telling a story where their involvement extends beyond a contribution; they are part of a solution, a story, and can be proud of their efforts.   He doesn’t just give them abstract statements like, “you made a difference” or “you helped change a life” or “the community is a better place” – he quantifies the difference, the better and the change.   Some examples include:
    1. 1,040 youth in Logan County received sexual assault prevention education services through United Way partner agency Hope Harbor.
    2. 293 nursing home residents received visits and complaint resolution services from the Barren River Long Term Care Ombudsman program resulting in improved quality of life, quality of personal care, interpersonal skills, and socialization.

Thanks to Ron Barb and the entire United Way of Southern Kentucky family for reminding us of how to communicate with our donors and supporters – great lessons and reminders for all of us. I suggest you read the full article at the link below – you may find some additional lessons.


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Is This Really a Need??

Today I took Devin and Darius school shopping.  You know the routine; pencils, colored-markers, highlighters, compasses, usb drives (I don’t remember this one on my school list), composition books (classic), and of course the transporter of all these supplies – the book bag.   We got everything on the list, we got everything we needed, or so we thought.

It was a pretty uneventful trip, until we unpacked at home.

I’m in the kitchen preparing dinner and they’re both  showing Dexter their supplies when this exchange takes place:

Darius – “Dex, you like my book bag?”

Dex  – “Yeah.”

Dex – “Darius, what’s that other bag?”

Darius – “My book bag from last year.”

Dex – “That looks brand new.”

Me – “Huh, what?? Bring me that bag.  Darius this book bag from last year is just fine.  Why did we buy another book bag?”

Darius – “I don’t know.”

Dex – “When am I going school shopping?
Me – “Now’s not the time..”

Dex – “Ok, and by the way, I don’t need a book bag.  The one I have from last year is just fine.”

Me – “Great, that saves me some money.”


Now back to Darius.  As you can see, I spent $30 on a book bag.  $30 that I didn’t have to, but I did.  Why because I failed to conduct a proper assessment of our needs and resources before I allocated my money.


What another wonderful lesson for leaders that my children have been so gracious to teach me:


Before you expend resources, make sure you assess not only your needs & wants, but your assets.  Sometimes you already have what you need. 

Next time you write a grant, apply for a government contract, conduct a needs/resource assessment remember this lesson.

We can become so preoccupied and focused on what we want and what we “think” we need that we don’t spend ample time assessing what we have and how to leverage what we have to get more.


By the way, Dexter leveraged the fact that he already had a book bag to get extra money for clothes.  Darius is learning the value of philanthropy and donating a book bag to a church’s back-to-school drive.   Oh yeah, and in the future, we will assess what we have before we go shopping.

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