When Your Nonprofit Mission Is a Hard Sell

Nonprofit Management

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If you’ve watched the 1998 film Armageddon, you know a thing or two about hard sells. In the movie, a large meteor is hurtling toward Earth, and the government must recruit the best oil drillers in the country to hop on a rocket with a nuclear warhead strapped inside it, land on a huge meteor, drill to its core, and detonate the nuke inside it—all of which may or may not work. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want the fate of the world on my shoulders!

Some nonprofits also have missions that are a hard sell. You could be trying to raise funds for any number of causes that are either obscure, extremely limited in scope, or for which it is hard to illustrate your organization’s successes. The following are three tips you can take to make finding support for your organization easier.

1. Focus on the positives

Like Bruce Willis’ character in Armageddon, you should focus on the positives. Sure, he had to leave his daughter behind to embark on a dangerous mission in space. But, he made a great deal that got him out of paying taxes and a free trip to outer space! Your communications with prospective donors should focus on all the good things your organization has accomplished. People want to feel hopeful when they support your cause. Dwelling too much on the needs and challenges your organization faces without showing donors what their support accomplishes may work against you. Celebrating the successes your donors made possible shows them that not only isn’t all hope lost, but that their donations are keeping your organization on track to achieve its mission.

2. Recruit a supportive crew

In the film, Bruce Willis wasn’t shuttled to the meteor alone. He had to get his crew to come along with him on this mission to ensure its success. Your nonprofit needs a crew committed to your mission’s success too. Recruit committed donors and volunteers to act as enthusiastic ambassadors of your organization. A group of people willing to talk to the community about the value of your nonprofit and share their own personal reasons why they support you can go a long way to recruiting new support from the community.

It’s important not to just send your ambassadors out without direction. Provide training and resources to make it easier for them to appropriately represent your organization to the community. Provide ambassadors with official informational brochures regarding your organization and its programs. Make sure ambassadors have donation envelopes and a supply of giving forms to accommodate donor requests. It may be helpful to create a donation acceptance cheat sheet that lists your policies and procedures on accepting cash or checks from visitors. The cheat sheet should list appropriate members of fundraising staff (with their contact information) to direct donors to if they have questions your ambassadors can’t answer. Official ambassador business cards using your organization’s logo add further legitimacy to your ambassadors if they’ll be soliciting donations or event sponsorships in the community.

3. Be present in the community

When the surviving members of the crew returned to Earth they were greeted with a warm welcome by the community and treated as heroes. Your nonprofit is also deserving of a hero’s welcome. You work to make the world a better place! One way to be recognized as the heroes you are is to be present in the community. Take part in positive community events. Set up a booth at the county fair, host community events people want to attend, and engage with your community on social media. Your goal should be to spread good will and attract people to your cause through your outreach efforts. Don’t limit yourself to a boring booth with pamphlets about your organization. Get creative and bring something unique and surprising to highlight yourselves at community events.


Your nonprofit has an important job to do. Don’t let a bleak or unpopular mission keep you from earning the support of your community. By focusing on the positives, recruiting enthusiastic ambassadors to champion your cause, and being present, you can cement your place in the community and create a sizeable following of supporters to your cause.

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