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  • Writer's pictureKen Phillips

The Power of Dreams

Updated: 2 days ago


Dreams have the power to inspire, motivate, and drive us towards achieving great things. In "Make a Better World: A Practical Guide to Leadership for Fundraising Success," I emphasize the transformative potential of dreams and how they can shape our personal and professional lives. This blog explores the power of dreams, drawing insights from the book to inspire you to dream big and take action.

A Note on Happiness

When I finished my term as elected president of the student organization AIESEC-US and was about to launch my professional career, I had job offers from the Bank of New York and the Institute of International Education (IIE). Given my experience as a youth leader in an organization dedicated to peace and freedom, it was an easy choice to accept the IIE position of program development coordinator and fundraiser, working to support new educational exchange programs. It was a great opportunity to play a major role as a fundraiser in developing new programs for the benefit of society. And that led to my long career in civil society. I cannot think of a more rewarding way to have spent my working years!

I have always believed people work for nonprofits because of the value of making a contribution to a better society. That is what nonprofits are all about with their vision, mission, values, strategies, and the programs they deliver. Certainly, employees in these organizations tend to work for lower salaries than they would receive in business or government. But I believe that, in the final analysis, nonprofit workers are getting a better deal. They are making a positive difference in society, they are working to make sure their children inherit a better world, and they experience a great sense of satisfaction and meaning in their work. This is truly a good life well lived!

A 2019 article in The NonProfit Times titled “Majority of Nonprofit Employees Happy in Their Jobs” reports on a San Diego survey of 1,000 nonprofit professionals. This survey found that the majority of nonprofit employees are satisfied in their current roles. This finding may not apply to all nonprofits and all countries all the time, but it does illustrate that working in the civil society sector has its own great rewards. This has certainly been my experience, and this is what I hear from many people in many countries!

The Power of Dreams

A well-functioning society has three complementary sectors: government, business, and civil society (often called the third sector). At the dawn of civilization, way before formal governments were created or legal corporations established, people joined together to help their families and others in their communities – much as we do today through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and informal groups. In fact, this so-called third sector was actually the first sector!

In a well-functioning society, all three sectors contribute to making this a better world, each in its own way. Today, perhaps more than ever, society needs nonprofits to step up where governments and businesses fail to do so. Nonprofits are by their very nature committed to a vision for a better world and fulfill this dream by providing services, support, education, and advocacy in the many areas of need.

I am not a utopian idealist but rather a utopian realist. I believe in the importance of a vision and dreams, of hopes and aspirations for a better life and a better world. And I believe it’s important to manage day-to-day tasks to achieve meaningful results. With the right approach, dreams can come true for an organization’s donors and for its program participants and beneficiaries. Indeed, it is the nonprofit organization’s “business model” to make this a better world by gathering support from others to help those in need – to make dreams come true!

A Real-World Example

I saw the importance of asking about dreams when I was working with the Alzheimer’s Society in Timisoara, Romania. The executive director, Aurora, told me she was frustrated, because she had asked the mayor many times for his support, and he always refused or ignored her requests. We scheduled a meeting with the mayor, and I asked Aurora to change her approach. I asked her to focus on the mayor’s dreams rather than on her organization’s needs.

We met with the mayor and his five key aides. There were about six of us representing the Alzheimer’s Society as well. As we sat down, the mayor and his aides were in postures of negative receptivity, with arms crossed and scowls on their faces. Aurora opened the meeting, “Mr. Mayor, we are here today to ask about your hopes for your city. What are your dreams for the older people who live here?”

The mayor was surprised and initially confused by Aurora’s question, but he quickly recovered. His body language changed to become open, arms reaching out. He looked at us and smiled at us. His aides noticed and followed suit, copying his body language. The mayor proceeded to share his thoughts about what Timisoara could become and how its senior citizens should find this city to be a beautiful and enjoyable place to live, including those with serious problems such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Soon the meeting was an enthusiastic exchange. We enjoyed creative discussions with great connections between the city officials and organization leaders with lots of ideas, suggestions, and ways to help. At the end of the meeting, the mayor said, “Aurora, I thought you were coming here to ask me again for money. But no, you asked about my dreams for my city and the people who live here. Let me think about this. Come back to see me tomorrow morning.”

The next morning Aurora and I went back to see the mayor, and he handed her keys to a building in the center of the city. He said, “Aurora, this is your building. I hope this will help make our dreams come true.”

She and I immediately went to the building. It was completely boarded up. After we finally gained entry, I was devastated. I saw a building in total disrepair and nothing but dashed hopes. But Aurora turned to me and said with a great smile on her face, “It’s beautiful!” In that moment, she taught me the power and the strength of seeing what could be. She saw the building as it would be and how it was for her, in fact, already a dream coming true.

Several years later I returned to Timisoara. Aurora showed me around the sparkling, renovated building with health, education, and daycare activities for seniors. She told me the mayor had asked city unions, citizens, and local businesses to help in the repair and landscaping and, together, they furnished the center. It was beautiful. It was something both the organization and the donors – the mayor, city employees, unions, companies, and volunteers – were proud to have accomplished.


This is the power of dreaming. This is the power of vision. This is the ability to see what dreams can produce. And this is an example of what a smart fundraiser can do by asking what the donor wants! The motivation of everyone in Timisoara was to make a difference, to be part of a fair and just society, to help those in need, and to see dreams fulfilled. The mayor’s dream unified the community to make this dream a reality.

For more insights into the power of dreams and practical strategies to achieve your goals, visit for free resources and access to discounts on my books.

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