Non-profits in the 21st Century

07/11/2016 02:39 pm ET Updated Jul 12, 2017

Non-profits in the 21st Century
How to break through a cluttered philanthropic environment to ensure your non-profit's message is heard and supported by donors

By: Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, Founder of World Hope International and General Superintendent Emerita, Wesleyan Church

The phone rings and the voice on the other end asks you to donate to the Red Cross. When scrolling your Facebook feedback during your lunch break, a friend suggests you support a GoFundMe campaign for a sick child. At your local Starbucks, you are surrounded by RED campaign paraphernalia. And finally, when swinging by your local grocery store on your way home from work, a few young girls ask you to buy Girl Scout Cookies.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

A place where the average consumer is literally bombarded with philanthropic messages and calls-to-action throughout every avenue of their day.

With so many organizations shouting on their bullhorns that their causes are the most important, it is no wonder that many consumers are confused and many non-profits are struggling.

As the founder of World Hope International, a faith based relief and development organization that I started 20 years ago, and General Superintendent Emerita, Wesleyan Church, I know a thing or two about how to break through a cluttered philanthropic environment to ensure that your non-profit's message is heard and supported by donors.

Below are my top three tips to help you navigate the non-profit space:

1. Build a relationship: Consumers nowadays are much leerier of philanthropic causes and organizations so building a relationship with your donor is of the utmost importance. As an organization, you need to take more accountability and demonstrate to your donors how you are not providing a quick fix but a longer-term solution.

2. Trust is key: Like Stephen M. R. Covey's The Speed of Trust emphasizes, it is imperative for donors to trust your organization. With trust comes a rapid fire word-of-mouth campaign that can do wonders for your cause. Without trust, your message will fall on deaf ears and your cause will not be supported.

3. Provide long-term change not a simple quick fix: Consumers are looking for long-term solutions and not quick fixes so you need to illustrate how your organization can fix larger issues. It is not enough anymore to show an image of a poor child. Why? Because they don't see an end in sight. What has your organization done in making a change and how do you want to expand this? For example, in the year 2000 the United Nations introduced the Millennial Development Goals with the hope of cutting poverty in half by 2015. Metrics were consistently monitored. As a result, the large goal was accomplished. In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals were introduced as phase two which is to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day, by 2030. Consumers want to see the future, they want to see the goal and the light at the end of the tunnel and not an endless vicious cycle with no impact. Albeit, the UN is on a macro-level. However, smaller organizations can use the same model at more local levels. In this manner, all people have opportunity, dignity and hope.

Now that you have some more insight on how to maneuver the non-profit space, I am confident that you and your organization will be able to get your voice heard in an otherwise cluttered philanthropic environment. I hope you have found these tips helpful to you and your cause. Thank you for your time and for your efforts to end worldwide injustices.