Patrick Swayze's Motivational Message to Nonprofits

Patrick Swayze: He was awesome. With that said, can nonprofit organizations benefit from the wisdom of his awesomeness? Absolutely. For starters, if nonprofit execs would have his dance moves, I think that they would find fundraising a much easier task. For ideas on how to apply said moves, I would suggest his classic Saturday Night Live “Chippendale” skit with Chris Farley. Lacking Patrick’s groove thang, there is still what to gain.

Patrick Swayze earned his fame from “Dirty Dancing” in 1987. From there he went on to star in “Roadhouse” in 1989 (a cult classic, though not a main stream favorite), “Ghost” in 1990, and opposite Keanu Reeves in “Point Break” in 1991. Life was very good for Mr. Swayze; he was at the top of his game. And then he just fell of the face of the well-respected-film earth, starring in films that never really made it big. Ten years later, in 2001, Swayze had his second-coming, stunning the cinematic world in a dramatic role as a motivational speaker who was a secret pedophile in “Donny Darko.” Certainly, not an easy role to play. But, man, did he play it well. The audiences were thinking, “Hey, this guy still has it in him.” While Swayze then downgraded to other small things in years to come (because of his bout with cancer and other reasons), the impression he left after that latest role in “Donny Darko” was that he was still in the game.

How does this relate to you, the nonprofit organization? Have you been having a hard couple of years? Feeling like you’re no longer the talk of the town? Is the average age of your membership approaching retirement? Don’t fret. You were once THE charity of choice for a reason. It’s time to rekindle the fire and show the world what you’ve got. If Patrick Swayze can do it, then so can you.

Some ideas that I have seen other nonprofits adopt that might help you along:

Education — Don’t just take, give! Recently, I have been seeing organizations that are seeing their model, methodology, information, or services as a valuable tool in-of-itself. Realizing this, they are turning to groups and schools to either volunteer/sell their expertise. It’s a great way to increase funds and get good PR.

Volunteering — Offer donors a chance to “get their hands dirty.” The trend is that donors are looking to make more than just a financial commitment. Offering alternative ways to “donate” to your organization allows more people to get involved and can create a more holistic connection between the donor and your organization.

Multi-Faceted — Realize that your important work touches people in different ways. Develop these diverse views of your organization to allow your cause to appeal to a wider audience.

Transparency — Foundations, donors, and pretty much everyone wants to see transparency in their charities, both with regards to funding and programs.  Not being forthcoming will probably make people suspicious and drive them off.  Transparency, like everything else, should have a strategy and be done responsibly.

Board of Directors — Open the Board up to a person or two who are different from your average board member. Could be of a different age, gender, political or religious affiliation etc. Just so long as this person believes in your work, he or she could bring a fresh new look to a fresh new audience.

But, please, don’t just re-brand or re-image without truly enacting some sort of change in your organization. Donors and others will see this as a waste of resources and just another attempt by a charity to dupe its constituents.

And now, a moment of silence for Patrick Swayze z”l (1952 – 2009).

Tizku LeMitzvot [May you continue to merit doing good deeds],


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