Lots of non-profit organizations survive by moving from one event to another; fundraising dinners, auctions, telethons etc.. This is a lot like driving around with a very tiny gas tank. You spend all your time driving to the gas station. Meanwhile, all the time, effort and money spent putting on and organizing the events makes it hard for you to really go as far toward your goals.
Other organizations push people to donate. They beg people to join, to donate and to become sponsors. They use what Seth Godin calls “interruption marketing” to put themselves in front of enough people that they get enough donations to keep going. This is basically the same thing is as dragging a large number of gas cans with you to avoid stopping at the gas station. Because you have repeated donors and new donors all the time, you don’t have to keep stopping at that gas station. The problem is that it takes a huge amount of interruption to get enough attention from people who aren’t really interested. We’re trained to ignore the interruptions just to avoid going crazy in our ad saturated society. All that work is slowing us down.
Instead of stopping to gas up or dragging gas cans with you, how would you like those gas cans to be replaced with engines that have their own fuel supply and actually pull you towards your goal. The organization that can do this is the one who has a community of partners who are passionate about the cause and feel like a real part of what is happening.
The way to create this kind of community is actually fairly simple. First, get permission to contact the people who are interested in your cause. Tell real, honest and human stories that allow the importance of your message to be felt by your listeners. They will connect with your cause in a deep way and want to take initiative to make sure you succeed. You also need to make them feel like a valued part of the community by reminding them that they are a part of the team that can make this change a reality