Updated: Nov 15, 2021
In Waking from the American Dream, Don McCullough writes that during World War II, England desperately needed to increase its production of coal. So Winston Churchill called together labor leaders to enlist their support. At the end of his presentation, he asked them to picture a parade he knew would be held in Piccadilly Circus after the war.
"First," he said, "would come the sailors who had kept the vital sea lanes open. Then would come the soldiers who had come home from Dunkirk and then gone on to defeat Rommel in Africa." "Then would come the pilots who had driven the Luftwaffe from the sky." "Last of all," he said, "would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner's caps. Someone would cry from the crowd, 'And where were you during the critical days of our struggle?' And from ten thousand throats would come the answer, "We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.'"
Like Winston Churchill, great fundraisers who see their mission funded understand the power of describing a world where their mission is no longer needed. With descriptive words, Churchill described the world filled with victory parades, where the great need for increased coal production was no longer needed.
Why would great leaders need to clearly define a world where their organization or mission is no longer needed? BECAUSE THAT IS THE ESSENCE OF VISION!
"Vision" is the world you would have to see for your nonprofit to no longer be necessary.
Martin Luther King understood this when he described Mississippi, the essence of Southern segregation, as "an oasis of freedom and justice."
The Alzheimer's Association understands this. Their mission (what they do) is to facilitate the "important work in providing Alzheimer's care and support and accelerating research." But their vision (what they dream of accomplishing) is not what they do. Their vision is what the world will look like if everything they fund works: A World Without Alzheimer's."
Alzheimer's Association Vision: A world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.
Why does this matter? Because describing a problem as solved makes you a visionary. Why does being a visionary matter? BECAUSE VISIONARIES RULE THE WORLD!
Visionaries attract resources
Visionaries see their missions fully funded
Visionaries start movements
My friend Pastor Mike Wells just completed a million-dollar capital campaign. His campaign was a success because he understood this concept. Before he got the needed resources, before the building was done, while the need was still great, one of his emails to donors described the need as already met!
Ever get a scene from a tv show or movie stuck in your mind, and you rehearse it over and over and over? I have a scene in my mind that bubbles up from my spirit that I just can't get away from. Can I share it with you? I see our church altars covered with people whose souls have been gripped by the eternal message brought to life in our services. Before ever coming to our service, these people were moved by the excellent presentation they saw online. I see multitudes of diverse people assembled in that building. This building is specifically designed to enhance and aid their training to reap the ripe harvest. They are joyful. They are hungry. They are being fed! And they are anxious to be released to bring their community in! I see a facility that inspires our community leaders to gladly lend their influence to for divine cause. I see you there with them, feeling great emotion as you remember the Sunday we all brought a sacrificial gift to make it all happen. You look around, and your eyes meet mine, and we both explode with a "Glory to God" because we know we only gave back what was given to us!
Nonprofit leaders and fundraisers often think that describing their need is the essence of fundraising. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.
Describing the need is easy compared with the hard work of finding the descriptive words that paint a picture of the need having been met.
If there is one thing I find that leaders don't understand, it is the power of vision. Most leaders think they become powerful when they can describe the need. Not so. Describing the need is easy compared to describing the world where that need would no longer be valid.
Ask a leader what the vision is for their organization, and more often than not, they will tell you what they do.
"What is your vision?" "We provide...we serve...we educate...we research…"
NO, NO, NO, ONE THOUSAND TIMES NO! WHAT YOU DO IS NOT YOUR VISION.
What you do is not your vision.
Your programs are not your vision.
Your research is not your vision.
How you help people is not your vision.
WHY DOES VISION MATTER? Because, WITHOUT VISION, YOUR ORGANIZATION WILL NEVER THRIVE.
Without vision, your organization will meander and stay small.
Without vision, your church will never reach its potential.
Without vision, your missionary journey will be hard and tough.
Without vision, your newsletter will be boring.
Without vision, your fundraising will be small.
Your vision is what the world would look like IF everything you do miraculously works. You become a visionary when you can describe a world where your organization is no longer needed.
A school in Virginia offered the course "Home Economics for Boys." No one enrolled. The dean renamed the course "Bachelor Living," and 120 signed up. Describing the class in visionary terms (what the class will produce, bachelors living it up!) instead of describing what is taught, attracts more students.
How you talk about your organization matters supremely.
Vision is ... the ability to see beyond our present reality, to create, to invent what does not yet exist, to become what we not yet are. It gives us capacity to live out of our imagination instead of our memory. (Covey, Stephen R.; First Things First)
Vision is a bold and stunning picture of a possible future.
A vision without a task is but a dream; A task without a vision is but drudgery; A vision and a task is the hope of the world. – From a church in Sussex, England, ca. 1730."