09 May No Small Dreams
I’m sure you’ve heard this expression, “There are no small dreams”… maybe in a leadership class… or maybe from a motivational speaker … or perhaps in a good article on business best practices? One of the more famous quotes in this vein reads, “Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” That was penned by German poet, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. I’m not sure exactly when he said it, but I believe it was in the late 1700’s.
So, what does that mean today? And what does it have to do with fundraising or development work? Well, quite simply, a lot. When we work with our clients, whether a Christian school, college, camp, rescue mission or so on, we encourage them to “dream big.” No small dreams allowed in nonprofit fundraising! We want to encourage them to pursue their vision for expanding current ministry capacity. Maybe this means serving more meals, providing more scholarships or distributing more gospel materials. Why do we encourage this?
Quite simply, because donors prefer giving to vision over status quo. When given the opportunity to make an impact through a major contribution, they would rather see growth, expansion, new programs and increased impact over “just getting by” with the same old programs. When testing capital campaign feasibility, we always recommend including the whole vision in the case statement. Will it require more dollars than are available at this time for the organization? Maybe, but better to paint a large vision and trim it back than to present a small vision (dream) and find out it’s not well received by your stakeholders.
In nonprofit organizations today, there is great need. Need often outgrows resources. Because of this, it doesn’t pay to “dream small.” In a book titled “If it Ain’t Broke, Break it,” the authors write, “We don’t have a clue as to what people’s limits are. All the tests, stopwatches, and finish lines in the world can’t measure human potential. When someone is pursuing their dream, they’ll go far beyond what seems to be their limitations. When you think of limits, you create them.” (Robert J. Kriegel and Louis Patler).
How do we know how a visionary project will touch the heart of a potential donor? Who are we to limit their potential giving? Why would we limit our dream without seeing what God can do? Do you want to move a man’s heart, like Von Goethe says? Then, present your vision with passion. And, remember – no small dreams allowed!