Harnessing a “Rocket Science Mindset” to reach unlimited results 

This week, a dear friend of mine who leads a medium-sized nonprofit organization in the arts sector called to ask for some advice. She had seen our blog post about how to fundraise amid COVID-19 and felt confused.

“You argue that organizations shouldn’t stop asking or selling at this time,” she said. “But we’re not an essential service – how on earth am I supposed to make a case for donating to us when people are dying?” 

It’s a valid question, and one that echoes how many of us feel. It’s hard to fundraise and sell when so many are facing life and death challenges. We have already addressed how to functionally make an ask at this time, but we haven’t talked about the guilt, fear and uncertainty associated with asking for help to improve quality of life rather than saving life itself.

To do that can take an important mindset shift.  

How we undermine the value of our own work

One of the challenges of the essential vs. non-essential dichotomy that has emerged during the times of Coronavirus is that it’s easy to dismiss the value of those services deemed non-essential. 

“We’re not an essential service” is the 2020 version of two common phrases: “We’re not curing cancer” or “It’s not rocket science.” You hear these words spoken over and over when people are putting their daily work into perspective. For the most part they are well intended refrains, but they have the dangerous side effect of denigrating or undermining the value of what we do. 

It’s important to remember that non-essential does not mean not invaluable. 

In the past few weeks we have helped our clients calm their own communities through intentional, values-driven communication strategies and provided free resources to nonprofits, businesses and candidates who are more motivated to shape their communities than ever before. 

At Javelina, we are nonessential and – to our clients – we are invaluable. For your people, you are invaluable too. 

Reframing your work in the age of essential vs nonessential

Your daily work matters. The product or service you provide impacts people. There is room enough in our complex world for essential and nonessential. It’s all invaluable. 

Here are three really important things to remember: 

  • It’s all about your audience. Whether it’s donors, voters, or customers, if you understand your target audience well and have invested in your relationship with them, they will value the work you are doing and want you to continue doing it. 
  • By providing opportunities to your audience to donate time and money, or to purchase your product/service, you are extending an opportunity to them to make a difference. Instead of taking something from them, you’re giving them something. 
  • Of course, there will always be people that say no – but that was always the case. 

In acute short-term emergencies, it may be right to hold off asking and selling but in a long-term situation like the one we’re in, it’s not reasonable. Not only do you need customers to survive, but what is “essential” changes with the duration of the crisis. 

Developing your authentic message

Starting from the Rocket Scientist Mindset of invaluable over nonessential, grab pen and paper and answer these simple questions: 

  1. What do I do? Describe your product or service. 
  2. Who do I do it for? Get as specific as possible here. “Service-based business owners with 5-10 employees” is much better than “business owners”.  
  3. Why is it invaluable for the people you serve? If you’re not sure, call a client/customer/donor and ask them. 

Now, take the answers to your three questions, and write your Rocket Scientist Mantra. The trick is to include the answers to your questions in reverse order so that you start with the last question first. Here’s an example for a nonprofit that provides support to artists in downtown communities: 

{Why is your organization invaluable?} Because of us, more artists know that it is possible to build a career doing what they love and figure out how to make it happen. Amid COVID-19, our work is more important than ever as people are scared of what the future holds for them. 

{Who do you serve?} We work with artists living in downtown communities across the country, 

{What do you do?} providing trainings on the business-side of art as a career and connecting new members of our community with volunteer mentors.” 

It might take a bit of editing to get it right. Once you have a statement that speaks to you, keep it in close sight. Put it on your website, write it in your journal, pin it to your bathroom mirror. Let it become your Rocket Scientist Mantra. In the coming weeks and months, make decisions from your Rocket Scientist Mindset. Know that your work is invaluable to the people it is developed for. 

We’d love to see your Rocket Scientist Mantra. Share them with us by emailing info@javelina.co 


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