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Nonprofits attracting resources

Patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet.

When it comes to attracting resources, the root of a strategy is critical. Where should a nonprofit organization with limited means begin to focus its efforts?

Its an important choice to make. Should our root represent tactics- specific activities  designed to obtain resources- or substance? Lets take a look at both options using this illustration as a guide.

Nonprofit Relationships

How the Compete Strategy Looks

The roots have been been aggressively flooded with tactics. The next event. More solicitations. Increased mailings. Getting more social media attention. A new crowdfunding campaign. Another grant proposal. The compete strategy suffers from a lack of oxygen!

Over the long-term the vine is dying. Eventually, the lack of nutrients from the vine causes the branches to break off. Consequently, the flow of resources is weakened. A shortage of resources then results. The struggles simply didn’t produce enough fruit.

How the Attract Strategy Works

The roots are the magnetic 5 E’s.

The vine represents tactics that spring from the root.

The branches are resources that flow from the vine to be distributed.

The fruit are the good things those resources allow your nonprofit to do.

Watch this to see the differences between the two approaches.

External confusion requires internal brilliance. 

Let’s explore the 5 E’s of Attracting Resources!


Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

What does your nonprofit really stand for? When you strip away everything that is not critical, you will discover your core element. That’s your essence.

What you believe to be representative of your own organization, however, may not ring true with others. Before your nonprofit can develop relationships, it must gain an accurate understanding of itself. And before your nonprofit can attract resources, it must be able to develop enduring relationships.

Identity crises can result. As individuals come and go from the organization, the mission and vision can become blurred. More importantly, individual values change. Sometimes those changes are significant.

To gauge internal and external facts and perceptions, try using a matrix like this one. Seek to continually cultivate and strengthen harmonious relationships. Questionable, disguised and uncharted relationships should be explored. You will find that some-but likely not all- will have the potential of one day being harmonious.

What do you believe is the one word that defines the true essence of your nonprofit organization? How does that compare with the view of others? Seek true essence before you jump into the tactical part of attracting resources. 

Nonprofit Relationships

“Observe all men; thy self most.” ~Benjamin Franklin


‘I taught myself to tune in to another person’s wavelength, figure out what they were looking for and try to project that thing back at them.” ~Robert Weston Smith a.k.a. Wolfman Jack

What one word about your nonprofit puts you on the same wavelength as those who care about your cause?

Attracting resources requires your nonprofit to clearly identify the profile of the people with an affinity to it. Here lies your prime target. There is no need to woo this audience: it already has a natural liking for what you do. Members of this audience believe in what you stand for. Your essence is appealing to them. They appreciate how you are tackling a particular problem or opportunity. Making the world a better place. And many times they already have ideas about how they can help.

On the other hand, some people and organizations will have a dismissive attitude toward your cause. An important part of equalizing is recognizing this predisposition. This cluster does not warrant the investment of your time. Harmonious relationships are very unlikely to unfold.

Trust is an important element in equalizing. Do your actions match up with your promises? Successfully attracting resources requires the answer to consistently be YES!


“Life’s enchanted cup sparkles near the brim.” ~ Lord Byron

Your nonprofit can’t enchant it’s audience unless it cuts through the traffic jam of the mind. Information overload is a given nowadays. People’s time is at a premium and attention is easily diverted elsewhere.

When supporting your cause becomes the absolute best way for others to make a difference and resolve their inner conflicts, they will pay greater attention to your communication. Partnering with your organization in some fashion will become a logical choice as your success is interwoven with their own.

As you consider this, remember that seeing (action) can often times upstage hearing (words). Also remember that the mind accepts information that matches its current state and filters out everything else. As with many things in life, timing is important.

What spellbinding return on investment does your organization offer? Answering this question will allow your nonprofit to move to the next level in building relationships: communication. Seek an outpouring of conversation, absorbing new branches of feedback, enabling others to grab the torch and run with it faster than you can keep up with. That’s how rapid, widespread engagement takes place.

Attracting resources should be centered around captivating your audience- not trying to continually tug at its coattails.


Consciously be sensitive to others, and try to elevate their level of consciousness. Don’t do this by being preachy and telling them that they ‘should’ do this or that. Do it by raising your own level of energy and recognizing what’s best in others.” ~ Srikumar Rao

Consider your organization a funnel. Attracting resources requires a steady flow through this funnel. Moving a captivated audience from casual observers to supporters, volunteers, evangelists, activists, members and even leaders requires a conscious effort.

Begin your elevation strategy by evaluating the current choices you offer to your audience. Are they easy to understand? How much time is required? What skill-sets are you looking for? Most importantly- what’s in it for them? Just don’t offer too many choices as this can paralyze people. The explosion of choice goes right along with information overload. Your objective should be to create a more positive and less mind-numbing experience.

  • Who doesn’t want to feel included and be heard?
  • Everyone owns hopes and dreams.
  • Many people just need to awaken their potential to make a difference!

What attracting choices can your nonprofit progressively offer?

 #5 Etch

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” ~Shannon L. Alder

How does your organization retain the attention of its audience? There’s often a lot of talk in nonprofit circles about “tugging on heartstrings”. But the starting point can’t be the heart.

In the mind, we remember or sometimes even forget. Our focus at the moment directs our thoughts and feelings. So you made your audience feel warm and fuzzy at last night’s fundraiser. And that’s great. But is your organization even a passing thought on those person’s minds next month or next year?

Attracting resources and sustaining momentum in the endeavor requires this: a simply sensational contribution timed just right.

We all have life experiences that we will never forget. The birth of a child. The death of a friend. Maybe your first work of art. Or your first roller coaster ride. A visit to Disney World. For each of us, there are special moments that are forever etched in our mind. Whether someone is  full of joy or just plain heartsick today cannot erase that memory.

Attracting resources requires your nonprofit to create unquenchable experiences. The kind that someone simply can’t get enough of. Here are some tips to help you get into that mindset.

  1. Re-frame events as experiences.
  2. Focus on emotional takeaways- not just monetary ones.
  3. Don’t masquerade. Let atmosphere reflect your true essence.
  4. Pay attention to all of the senses.
  5. Arm your ambassadors.
  6. Do the unthinkable.

What unquenchable experience can your organization deliver to its target audience?

Putting the 5 E’s of Attracting Resources to Work!

Sarah Jackson of Casa de Paz

Several years ago, Sarah Jackson went on a trip to the US/Mexico border with a humanitarian aid organization working on immigration issues. She spoke with people who had been deported. She attended deportation hearings through Operation Streamline. She learned about people’s reasons for migrating, and the dangers they face in doing so. She saw first-hand families being separated. Then she returned to Colorado and couldn’t go return to her normal life after this experience. She decided to do something about it because she believes families should be together.  She opened Casa de Paz, a hospitality home which offers free housing and support for families and individuals affected by immigrant detention. To keep the doors of the Casa open, Sarah started a volleyball league, Volleyball Latino. All the profit from the volleyball league is donated to Casa de Paz which pays for its operating expenses. Sarah’s hope and prayer is to help end the isolating experience of immigrant detention, one simple act of love at a time.

I recently caught up with Sarah to find out how Casa de Paz is applying the 5 E’s. Here’s what she had to say.

Sometimes perceptions about a nonprofit conflict with its true Essence. Sarah, what perception(s) about Casa de Paz do you routinely encounter that are in contrast to what it really stands for?
Often times I hear “Oh, so you help illegals?” when I tell people about the hospitality we provide at Casa de Paz. The reality is that every single guest that stays in our home is legally allowed to be in the United States. Our guests have either been released from detention or are here from out of town to visit their loved ones who are detained. In order to visit someone in the detention center you must have a government issued ID (passport, driver’s license, etc). I find this to be a great opportunity to have a conversation surrounding the words we use to describe someone. There are better ways to address someone who is without status: undocumented immigrant and aspiring citizen are a couple of my favorites. These misconceptions about the Casa tend to lead to a more in-depth conversation about how we can value someone’s life rather than demean it with the words we use.
What one word puts you on the same wavelength with your clients?
Human. At the end of the day, no matter what country we were born in, what color our skin is, what language we speak… we are all human. Sometimes guests who stay at the Casa don’t speak English or Spanish (the only two languages I can speak) so having a quality conversation about why the Casa exists can be a little bit of a struggle. I always try to boil it down to the most simple explanation possible- if I were in this situation I would want a home to stay in, as well. Basically, The Golden Rule. If I was just released from detention in an unfamiliar city or if I had family who was locked up in detention, I would want a place like the Casa where I could stay. It’s not rocket science or brain surgery… having a home where you feel safe and welcomed is a concept we can all understand.
What spellbinding return on investment does Casa de Paz offer to attract others to your cause?
We have super simple volunteer opportunities. Our volunteers can bring over a meal, give a guest a ride to the airport or visit with someone who is locked up in detention. In a world that consumes almost every hour of our valuable time we understand how important it is to offer ways to help out that won’t require a huge block of time or length of commitment. My philosophy is that I want people to help out if and when they feel like it. The last thing I want someone to do is provide hospitality when their heart isn’t in it. Offering extremely flexible hours and days keeps our volunteers eager to help because they understand they are under no pressure to raise their hand to help — they do so when they want to, not because they’re required to.
What choices does your organization offer to individuals that promote increasing levels of engagement?
Denver has quite a few organizations that are experts in their field. We have groups that really focus on political engagement which is an area that we don’t really spend time on. I love sending people to the specific group that will really feed their soul. I have no desire to reinvent the wheel and if someone is already doing good work locally, might as well send interested folk over to them! We know what our mission is and any time we are presented with an opportunity to swerve off-course we re-visit our mission statement and realize it’s a chance for us to maintain our focus. We do what we do- hospitality- and that is our one and only goal at the Casa. It’s nice to have a defined purpose because it’s easy to say no or yes when things come our way.
What unquenchable experience(s) does Casa de Paz offer to staff and volunteers?
I think people really feel like what they’re doing truly makes a difference. They know without the Casa our guests would be homeless in the streets lost, confused and without anyone beside them. To see your actions directly affecting the well-being of someone can be rewarding. Our guests are overwhelmingly grateful for the hospitality we provide. It’s nice to feel appreciated and our guests make us feel like we really mattered to them. When you can tangibly see the results of your love and are showered with gratitude, you just can’t help but share those experiences with your friends.
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