intention Apr 04, 2022

There’s just three little letters that make up a big and important word: WHY.

I became intimately acquainted with the word WHY during the early 1990s.  In the midst of a messy relationship break-up, I’d sing the Annie Lennox song ‘Why’ through tears day and night. If you don’t know the song check it out, it’s a stunner.

Over a decade later, Simon Sinek released his book ‘Start with WHY’, and turned the word WHY on its head. Suddenly the word wasn’t just at the start of the question; it WAS the question. What’s your WHY? Simon’s premise is simple: there are thousands of successful companies and leaders, but only a few ever change the world, so what makes them different from the rest?  

Simon’s book stated that people don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.  In other words, an organisations’ core purpose. He asserts that those successful companies start with WHY, and then use this as a guiding principle for all communications.

Now you’d think that non-profit organisations and social enterprises would be brilliant at knowing their WHY, wouldn’t you?  In my experience. Not so. Each year about 400 non-profits complete our Readiness Q&A. One of the questions we ask is: what societal problem does your organisation solve? This is another way of asking the WHY, but more direct. I estimate that only 1 in 10 answer this correctly, as in, they describe the actual problem they solve. 9 in 10 detail the solution – ie WHAT they do (to solve that problem).

I truly believe that non-profits and social enterprises must get back to basics and before doing anything else – craft a compelling WHY statement. THIS is what donors are inspired by, want to connect to, not the boring numbers or the long-winded explanation of your (albeit brilliant) services.

Some months ago, I had to read a ‘case for support’ for an established organisation seeking several million dollars from corporates. It read like a government official had written it. It was full of mind-numbing statistics, lacked any emotion or stories.  The WHY was buried beneath the WHAT and the HOW

Identifying and articulating the problem that your organisation solves, connects you to your WHY. It’s so important to have this front of mind when approaching corporates. Why? Good question! Because when companies are approached by a charity, invariable they are asked for money. Some are asked weekly; many are asked daily. It’s a constant, never-ending queue of people asking for money. Charities ask corporates for money to pay for things (the What and How) and it’s not inviting at all. Not so our students, and their approach is a refreshing stand out.

Corporates are not cash cows, and this is one of their common complaints. Corporates are good at solving problems; indeed they LOVE solving problems. Tell them what your Big Hairy Arduous Problem is (BHAP) and they’ll want to come on the journey with you to help solve it.  Enrol them to your WHY. Of course money will be part of the transaction. But it’s not THE transaction.

It's also vital that you and your organisation know WHY you want corporate partners. If your answer is ‘money’ then you’re bound to encounter the same barrier as above. Ironically, if you focus on the money, you won’t get it. If you’d like to formulate your WHY for corporate partnerships, with clear guidance and a user-friendly Template, check out our free exercise where you set your Corporate Partnerships Intention.

Discover our WHY in the BePartnerReady.com Manifesto 


Hailey Cavill-Jaspers


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