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If you’ve read our previous blogs, you know we don’t use the terms “grants.” That term, whether intentional or not, implies “free money” without any imperative to produce something in return. As most of us acknowledge, rarely is anything in life given without strings attached. There’s the often cited Biblical verse: “To whom much is given, much will be required.” Regardless of your chosen religion, this sentiment applies to most, if not all, of us. The social investment sector is no exception.
Besides the traditional idea of investment involving a financial transaction that will produce a profit or material good, investment is also defined as “an act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.” Certainly, the achievement of a positive, desired, or targeted social outcome can be thought of as a “worthwhile result.”
When a funder (whether it’s government, a corporation, foundation, or individual donor) provides dollars to an organization or a cause, they expect something positive or “good” will happen as a result. Although they realize the issue might not be resolved overnight (if ever), there is the expectation their money will help move the needle forward. For example, if someone gives money to a program that helps vulnerable teenage male youth graduate from high school, the expectation is: (1) X percent of them will actually graduate; and(2) there will be a significant increase in the percentage of them graduating than what would have occurred without the program. Why wouldn’t they have that expectation? Otherwise, they wouldn’t cut that check, right? Another way to think about it is … they expect something to happen. They might not directly benefit, they might seem unaffected on the surface … but they EXPECT something to happen.
This mindset cripples organizations: get the money, be grateful, then focus on paying staff and delivering activities (besides submitting a periodic report to the “funder,” of course). It puts them in a mode in which they don’t emphasize or value the actual effectiveness of their organization. Many have been sucked into the belief (usually on a subconscious level) that merely offering services and programs is worthwhile and therefore, a success. That’s simply not true! If you can’t prove your organization is producing positive OUTCOMES (not OUTPUTS), then why would anyone want to “invest” in it?
When a company or individual gives money to your organization, there’s the expectation it will produce positive outcomes, not outputs. Shifting your mindset to understand that is a very important building block for your organization. If this philosophy isn’t built into the wiring of your operation, you’ll find yourself constantly scrambling in “warm and fuzzy” mode. The great news is … you don’t have to stay in that lane. Plan and approach your efforts with the expectation you will be able to produce and prove your outcomes. The investors will come your way. Trust that!
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