- Mutual accountability.
- A relationship centered on transforming the donor-as-follower in relation to the cause.
That’s my short answer to the question posed in the title of this post. Those are the two things that non-profit leaders owe their donors-as-followers. (Oh–if you haven’t yet read the previous post, Nonprofits Have Followers, Not Donors, please do so. It’ll help you make a lot more sense out of this current post.)
Liberty University’s Dr. Michael R. Mitchell fills out this thought in his must-read for nonprofit execs and fundraisers (please don’t waste your time reading fundraising books, for heaven’s sakes), Leading, Teaching, and Making Disciples:
Followership is more than a position of submission. It is a commitment to change, a willingness to be transformed into the image, style, and behavior of the leader. Following may simply indicate trailing behind another or even adhering to the directions of someone who can point the way to a desired location. Followership, on the other hand, implies a condition of relationship and accountability. The invitation of Jesus to follow him offered a transformation of life and lifestyle that involved more than just shadowing him from town to town and miracle-to-miracle, observing and not participating. Many people followed him, but only a few chose to accept his invitation to followership and discipleship.
“Observing and not participating”–doesn’t that describe the donor file of most nonprofits? (Heck, it describes the constituency of most churches!) We act as if we’re in this state of affairs because observing and not participating is the donor’s preference.
Two comments here:
- Have we modeled any other viable path of possibility for the donor? I mean, more than pray ‘n’ give ‘n’ sign up for the newsletter? When donors ask, “What can I do?“, do we have a robust answer that represents the heart of our ministry? Or is it an ill-defined side unmarked rabbit trail for the bold?
- What does it say about us as leaders that we are willing to accept observing and not participating as a legitimate means of involvement in the cause? Jesus “began to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1), not “do and advertise”, “do and promote”, or “do and solicit”.
The moment we accept the appellation, “leader”, we owe more to our followers–yes, followers, because that’s what leaders have, even when they prefer not to recognize that ethical responsibility–than solicitation, receipting, and reporting.
We owe them mutual accountability and a platform for transformation that we staff at the heart of our ministry.