Philanthropy and Putting First Things First

by | Oct 22, 2015

Like a lot of kids in the sixties I walked to school. My walks were full of imaginary stories I created with complete dialogues for all the actors. I still create imaginary stories. This one involves Stephen Covey, philanthropy and one of his famous phrases, putting first things first.

In fact that was the title of his 1994 book which followed the best-seller, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

He was a highly sought after time-management guru who tapped into the heart and soul of why we choose what we do with our time. How would he think about philanthropy?

Join me for my imaginary interview.

Mr. Covey, why is it so important to understand the why before we spend our time writing donation checks? I imagine he would say something like this, “It’s only after choosing what’s first that we can then make exceptional use of our money and our time. The why is our compass that focuses on where we’re heading, not how fast we get there.”

Mr. Covey, that sounds time consuming. How much time will it take? I imagine he would say something like this, “It’s only after having a clear direction in mind that we can map out how much time we will spend learning about an organization or talking to others we might want to invite along the journey with us. It’s the essence of putting first things first.”

Mr. Covey I am very interested in finding donor partners. What suggestions do you have for me?

I imagine he would say “take time to explore, ask and listen. It will increase the odds of a successful donor partner relationship. Here’s what I suggest.”

  • Have a specific conversation about why the prospective donor partner is interested in the mission or organization (learn more about donor partners in my last post “Find Donor Partners at Fundraiser Events”).
  • Ask how they would define success.
  • Invite the Executive Director of the organization you’re interested in or the leadership of the cause to be part of the conversation.
  • Write down the expectations you and your donor partners have for the project, idea or program.

He would wrap up the interview something like this, “There are certainly no guarantees about how successful you might be in your search for other donors interested in the same mission or with the same passion. Putting first things first does guarantee you will know why you want to write your own check.”

Imagination aside I do wish I could hear his answers. Putting first things first is a great phrase; start with the end in mind even better. I’m convinced there would be much to think about at the end of such an interview.

On a final note, I believe taking time to identify others interested in sharing our passion and funding a mission we care about is worth the investment of time. You and donor partners can make a difference whether small or large donations. You get to decide – together.

Thank you Mr. Covey, for setting me straight – First Things First.



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