today in black history

April 24, 2024

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) was incorporated on this date in 1927 with 27 member colleges.

FUNdraising Good Times

POSTED: February 27, 2017, 9:00 am

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Leadership is more than a job. It's an expression of your commitment to an organization, a cause, or an institution. People know when they meet you whether you are going through the motions, or living the mission and vision of the nonprofit you represent.

Some leaders have charisma, that ability to engage others. They reach out and touch your heart and soul. Others are quiet with a passion that reveals itself more slowly but is equally compelling. These leaders know what they are talking about, and they know how to connect with people. They are not promoting themselves, they are promoting a vision they believe in. They are promoting a vision that is made manifest through an organization. The leader brings you in. He or she draws you into a vision and paints a picture that includes you. You are important. You make the difference.

Danny Thomas had this quality. When he walked into a room he had you. Even when St. Jude Children’s Hospital was just launching, Memphis was spellbound by his vision and wanted to get involved. Jerry Lewis drew in the crowds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Lou Rawls did it for the United Negro College Fund. These were two different types of leaders, but both grabbed you and brought you in. Today John Hope Bryant of Operation HOPE and Beverly Robertson, former executive director of the National Civil Rights Museum are examples of leaders who grab your attention with their commitment. They go out into the community and talk to people. They share their vision and encourage others to advance a shared mission.

These leaders have the intangible quality that’s at the heart of success for businesses and nonprofits. It’s a quality that draws people in. Every organization needs engaging leadership, but if it’s all you have, you’re in trouble. Remember, when you bring people in you need the systems and infrastructure to support their involvement. In many organizations that’s the work of the COO - the leader who is focused on business and programmatic operations. Partnering a visionary with a tactician creates the magic you need to attract and sustain volunteers, advocates, and investors.

You also need a compelling case for support. We write about this often as the case is the heart of all communications and fundraising. But remember this: a case is like a script for a play or movie. The script is critical. But without actors it doesn’t come to life. It’s a document or a brochure. But that actor - the visionary leader - takes the case and brings it to life through words and actions. The visionary leader engages others: there are roles for people to play and the script (case for support) comes to life through people and their talents and resources.

Think about your organization, leadership and how you engage your community. Know inside your heart that you need others to bring your vision to life. Talk to everyone and invite them to participate in a shared vision.

Copyright 2017 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw are authors of four books on fundraising available on For help growing your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.

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