Breadth versus Depth

Is your organization more about breadth or about depth? In other words, does the organization you represent focus on providing relatively few services to a big number of people, or does it serve a small number of constituents very deeply?

Seems to me that child sponsorship is a prime example of breadth. My sponsor gift of, say, $30 a month is pooled with dollars from other sponsors to create enough critical mass to effect change in a village or community. As a donor I see my gift as making a difference, but it only works if I’m part of something much bigger.

The field of education, by contrast, is a good example of depth. I represent a high school for students at risk, where the annualized cost to educate a single student is relatively high. That makes it a challenge to come up with the sort of “Your gift of $X does Y” calculus that many donors prefer. But the transformation that takes place in the life of each student is deeply significant. Some donors understand that model and embrace it while some don’t.

My experience tells me that, in order to acquire new donors, we need to find ways to break that sort of “depth” model down into bite-sized chunks so the smaller donor understands exactly what his/her gift will do.  When the overall cost per beneficiary is high, how do we attract the entry-level donor with something compelling? We’ve been trying some different approaches but the jury is still out.

I’d love to hear how you’ve handled this balance. Breadth or depth? Efficiency or effectiveness? Or is it both?

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