Surplus and Sacrifice: the Organizational Development Impact

Posted by Matthew Thomas

In times of economic growth, donor-based organizations can appeal to people’s sense of wealth and surplus: “Hey, you have a little bit extra this year, why not give it to [fill in the blank].” In surplus times, we can ask for someone’s extra and may get away with it.

Quarter or Dollar? Surplus or Sacrifice?In times of economic pressure – or even in times of long-term stability or stagnation – donor-based organizations must dust off another term: sacrifice. We ask people to give up something that they have that is good (maybe even necessary) for our cause, in order to gain something often much less tangible.

These two approaches create different relationships with donors and place different levels of responsibility on the organization. In the first instance, people’s passion and involvement can be relatively low – they had a little extra, we asked for a little extra, and that’s what we get. In the second instance, we are asking donors to become more deeply involved in our cause. Moreover, we are saddling ourselves with a greater responsibility to use those funds wisely and prudently – since someone gave up something beyond their “extra” to promote our purpose. We realize then that we are in something of a partnership with our donors and that it matters how we handle what they have given us. This has the potential to change our organization’s financial priorities – to make sure we do what we do with quality, and on purpose.

How does the difference between surplus giving and sacrifice giving affect your organization’s sense of responsibility, financial priorities, and relationships with your donors?

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Topics: nonprofit leadership, resource development, Matthew Thomas, Design Group International