Inspiring Donors to Support Your Mission

As I look at my successes and failures in raising money, much of that legacy has to do with how well (or poorly) I tied the donor to the mission. The mission statement is critical for fundraisers to raise money because it helps inspire donors to support your cause.

30 years ago, I worked with our volunteers and staff at the Canadian Red Cross to create our mission statement.  We loved our organization and we worked hard to draft what we thought was the perfect reflection of what we did and the benefits we delivered to the community.  Unfortunately, the result was a wordy and totally forgettable document. As a fundraiser, it didn’t help me raise money.

Here are three key points to consider when building a mission statement for your organization that will inspire donors to support your mission.

1- Mission is the number 1 motivator for donors.

In 2000, Dr. Tony Myers and I conducted a survey of motivational factors for why Canadians donate money to charitable causes.  We undertook a comprehensive literature review; held focus groups across Canada; interviewed 20 leading fundraising practitioners; and surveyed 1,200 Canadian donors.  The most important question we wanted to answer was: “What is the primary motivation for why Canadians donate their next gift to charity?”

The results were clear.  The highest rated factor amongst Canadian donors was “belief in the mission of the organization”.

Fundamentally, Canadians want to see clarity in the work of charities and the outcomes delivered. Sometimes fundraisers get lost in other motivational factors such as tax implication or personal recognition.  While these may be primary motivational factors to a few donors, they are usually secondary.

Armed with this knowledge, our boards, leadership and fundraising teams need to learn how to effectively interpret their mission to align with the beliefs of prospective donors. That’s the sweet spot.

2- Keep your mission statement clear and concise.

In a data compilation entitled 50 Example Mission Statements1, it was found the best mission statements are clear, concise and useful.  The average length of the mission statements for the 50 organizations cited is only 15.3 words, ranging from two words (TED: Spreading Ideas) to a whopping 235 words for a refugee support organization.

I reviewed the mission statements of my own top ten current clients. The average length of their mission statement is 27.9 words, with 70% at 26 words or less.  How clear and concise is the language in your mission statement?

3- Money ultimately drives mission.

The mantra ‘money drives mission’ must be understood and accepted philosophically by leadership throughout our organization. Try this test.  Imagine inviting your program leadership to your next board meeting and asking them: “Do you have enough money presently to deliver the organization’s mission?”  The response should be an immediate “No!”  Of course not!  Another simple test: imagine the impact on your mission delivery if funding were decreased.

The reality is, mission delivery is directly dependent on money.  Unless you believe government funding is a growth industry (pause for dramatic effect and hysterical laughter), then the money required will come primarily from philanthropic fundraising.  Ignore this fundamental truism at your peril.

What I’ve learned is an effective mission statement can help inform, motivate, focus, and guide our fundraising plans and actions that ultimately inspire donors to give.  It’s important that your board and CEO understand this reality and be informed about how their actions can lead to strengthening their mission statement and hiring professionals who are ready and able to drive money to mission.  And it’s important for fundraising professionals to understand this reality to better prepare themselves for expressing mission as a motivationally inspiring connection to those they hope to become donors.

It’s useful to stand back and take a second look at your mission statement.  Are you getting the big picture?  Have you crafted a statement that is concise and clear?  Does your team understand that mission is the number one reason why Canadians give money to charitable causes?  Is your team philosophically aligned and training on how to drive money to mission?

If you believe these questions require further investigation in your organization, then it’s time to pause and consider your mission statement with fresh eyes.


  1. 50 Example Mission Statements, Craig Van Korlaar, TopNonprofits, Sept. 26, 2012,