Our nation recently observed the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Television highlights of his life and death brought back many memories. I was five days short of my ninth birthday when the newly elected President delivered his inaugural speech January 20, 1961.
I remember gathering in front of a television with my fellow third graders to watch the inauguration. Except for a few famous lines from President Kennedy’s speech, I could not recall what he said. Thanks to the archives available on the internet, I listened to his speech again, this time with an adult perspective. JFK was a dreamer and a visionary. I heard one television commentator refer to him as “Inspirer-in-Chief.” Perhaps the most famous line of that speech is: “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Americans responded positively to his challenge.
So, what does this have to do with capital campaigns? I believe it has much to teach us. People respond better to a great challenge than they do to a small one. Small challenges do little to capture one’s imagination. People do not get motivated to sacrifice for things that can be accomplished with very little effort or resources. It’s easy to overlook those things, and to assume that someone else will take care of them.
When people are confronted with a monumental undertaking, they take a more serious look. When the need is great and the challenge seems overwhelming, that motivates people to invest at a much deeper level. They will “own” it.
This is where you come in as a leader. You must genuinely believe that the need is great. You must paint the vision, and help your donors see and feel the need. Your job is to inspire your people to dream of how things can be better if everyone shares the dream and pulls together to see it accomplished. If you are successful in doing that, no dream is unreachable. So dream big, and challenge others to dream with you!