Recently, I had the privilege of spending three days on a cruise ship with a small group of passionate poverty alleviation leaders. My job was to mentor and help them create a strategy for leading their nonprofit organization for the next year.

One of the activities I engaged in with them was coaching them through several dreaming sessions. I believe that as a coach, my job is to help draw the best out of the leaders I coach, and not simply to tell them what they should do. So I help them conceive their dreams and help them through the gestation period and the delivery process. Then I advise them on how to grow their newborn dreams.

One of the many wrong approaches I addressed was that these leaders were advertising their needs in hopes of recruiting supporters to join their organization and help meet these needs.

People are motivated by a great vision, not needs!

Vision motivates and inspires people. Needs depress and turn off people. A great vision inspires people and moves them to desire to come on board and help accomplish the vision. I advise leaders not to focus on the needs they need help to solve but on the better future that the help will provide. That better future is the vision.

For example, instead of simply trying to approach individuals and churches to help sponsor orphans through the organization as these leaders were doing, I taught them to come up with small visions for each area their ministry.

Instead of focusing on showing depressing pictures of suffering kids and asking people to help, I showed them how to come up with a SMART vision for helping say, 50 or 100  orphans. They could have a goal of finding sponsors for 50 or 100 orphans in one year. Paint a mental picture of a better tomorrow for these kids and show how sponsors can help make that happen.

SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. It’s a good device for setting goals or small visions. Finding sponsors for 100 orphans is specific. It is measurable, attainable, and relevant to their larger ministry vision of serving the poor. One year makes this goal time-bound.

What I’ve discovered is that when you have a SMART inspiring vision or goal, people like to join and work to see it finished. With the goal of 100 children in one year, a church may be excited to rally its members to sponsor 25 of those kids. They would be excited to have solved 25% of the problem. An individual helping sponsor one child would know that he is bringing down the number towards zero.

Setting SMART goals is also good for the organization because when they are achieved, everybody can get together and celebrate the success! The story can be spread in the Newsletter to help motivate all the sponsors and the entire organization.

When one small vision is completed, you carefully come up with another SMART vision.

Remember, great visions inspire people. Needs depress people.

You want people to be excited to join and help. You don’t want people to see the need and say to themselves, “It’s so big. It’s not even worth putting my drop of help in the ocean of need!” You want people to see that their help goes a long way towards accomplishing the vision.

Here is my advice to all charitable organizations:

Instead of having a list of needs, I encourage you to have a list of SMART vision-goals that shows what the organization seeks by writing a paragraph or story that paints a picture of the brighter future that each resource will bring.