Corey Quinn is principal at 501CEO, a firm assisting nonprofit leaders and boards in strategic planning, communication and fundraising. Some years ago Corey served as president of DeLaSalle Middle School in St. Louis. We interviewed him at that time for The Weekend Briefing.
On the surface, for a middle school of 63 students to raise $1.9 million last fiscal year in one of St. Louis’ toughest neighborhoods is hard to fathom. From your viewpoint, what has contributed most to your success?
First thing is a gift given to me by a number of people, the concept of a spirit of abundance. We have adopted a mindset we think is a prerequisite to success, to believe there is abundance everywhere.
There is no shortage of opportunity. That gets us off our butts.
The care with which we treat our students is the care with which we treat our donors. We are always trying to find new ways to show our appreciation. That tends to feed on itself.
It may feel good to write the personal note, but it feels ten times better to receive it. So why wouldn’t you do that?
Thanking the donor for their gift with humble gratitude makes that donor want to do all the more!
I’ll write a note; not a request, just “how’s it going?” Even with all the technology we can harness today, I believe a letter written in ink is far more powerful. It becomes a luxury to receive; a rare, precious form of communication. “Wow, this person thought enough of me to get out a pen, get a stamp, and take the time…”
The donor gets a positive feeling about that, and about us.
We have amazing students. All I have to do is to convey to you what’s right in front of me and how you can be a part of it. It’s effortless, really. The kids do the work.
My invitation to the donor is “You are going to help us transform a life.” When the donor accepts that role it changes them.
I see it in the eyes of donors when they visit our school. “I got changed. Well, that was unexpected.” Once we are able to connect a visitor with what we do, they won’t say no.
Lots – hundreds – of smaller nonprofits just like yours are struggling right now and can’t ever imagine achieving your success. If you had to chart a path for them, what would you say?
It would be unfair if I didn’t say, “I’ve walked that road.” I still have struggles and doubts.
It’s sort of cliché, but “whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”
The answer is not external. Before you go into a big ask, find a private spot and strike a pose like you’ve scored a touchdown. Your moment of victory. “I’m in champion mode right now!” Now go do that think you’re afraid to do. It sounds dumb, but it works.
The key is, what we aspire to do, that success is within each of us. That’s because God, however you think of God, is within us.
Next time, Corey Quinn’s Annual Report letter to his donors.
It will blow you away.