The Giving Path

In the past three days I’ve been in two separate conversations about, The Giving Path.

A navigation tool first introduced to me by fundraising experts within public radio, and over the years I’ve whittled and wandered to make the Path my own.

The point of The Giving Path is to visualize the clear and necessary steps it takes to get someone, to do something.  Whether you want someone to make a donation, buy a ticket, or simply respond to an email, letter, or text, certain things have to happen to get what you want.

Here’s how I outline the steps:

  1. Initiate – You have to first make contact with whomever you’re trying to reach.  He, she, or they need to be aware that you exist.
  2. Educate – Next, your audience needs to really get to know you.  What do you do? And, more importantly, why do you matter?
  3. Engage – Now that everyone’s acquainted – let’s do something together. Extend a friendly invitation to take a quiz, leave a comment, come over for visit (or an event), or send something intriguing to watch, listen, or read.
  4. Inspire – Through engagement attention is had, now’s the time to make it memorable.  If it’s a quiz, man it better reveal something interesting – an event, better want it to never end – a video, podcast, excerpt from a book, article, or journal, better beg to be shared.
  5. Activate –  If the first four steps are taken thoughtfully, this should actually be the cake walk.  Simply make your ask and be grateful for all you receive.

While the steps are outlined easily enough, walking them out is actually pretty tricky.

Initiate & Educate are the longest, most expensive, and most critical steps.  Mess these up and your path turns to quicksand.  You’ll use all of your precious energy to yank yourself out of sinkholes that will inevitably just keep swallowing you whole.

Though if you exhaust yourself too soon, and then skimp on Engage and Inspire, all of your hard work will be for not.  People can know about you their whole life long, but if you don’t make them feel involved and important you’ll miss the chance to actually connect.  And connection is everything.

Ah, yes, then comes Activate.  The step that everyone’s (almost) always in a rush to stand tall on.  Make the money.  Sell the tickets.  Capture the data.  Get the answers.  This step is the arrival, the goal, the point of the whole damn Path.  Patience with the first four steps makes this last one so lovely, easy, and comfortable…but patience is a gift that we’re not always ready to give, or receive.

Professionally, I’ve helped raise millions of dollars for worthy causes by walking multiple campaigns and strategies down this simple glorious path.  I’ve also likely NOT raised just as much (if not more) when I’ve conned myself into rushing (or completely bypassing) one or all four of these critical steps.

But still, with all of my professional admired and awful results, I never once considered applying The Giving Path to my own complete journey.

Until, today.

Lately, I’ve been negotiating feelings of confusion, division, and uncertainty.  And these feelings weren’t feeling good, because I’ve been living with me for nearly 35 years, and by now I should clearly and confidently be activating my forever plan.

But, then it occurred to me.

A lot has changed.  I have changed.  And so, really, I’m just on Step One.  Just getting to know me and taking the time to understand what it is I actually want and how I actually want to get there.

And honestly, being firmly on Step One feels so much better than running around trying to keep up…with nothing.






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