Ever received a hand-made card from a child? The drawing might be bright and the handwriting might be inscrutable, but neither of those things are why we display children’s notes on our fridges or treasure the gifts they make.
There’s an innocence in the act of open-hearted giving and receiving, and that innocence is worth preserving in professional fundraising as well as between adults and children.
Keep three things in mind as you connect people and organizations who have resources with the other people, organizations, and causes that need them.
1. Assume abundance.Over the last several years, a lot of people have suffered financially. Some have lost long-held jobs or been unable to find steady work at all. For so many, the decade has been a season of scarcity, and so talk of abundance seems alien.
But an assumption of abundance is especially important now. Those of us who didn’t come from wealthy backgrounds and still aren’t flush get to practice holding the energy of plenty as we work with resources on behalf of causes we care about. We practice not centering board fears about the bank balance or worrying that good work won’t find advocates.
Be willing to guide program leaders in breaking projects into more fund-able increments, or revising projects in ways that leverage other resources the team already has. In the context of abundance, and assuming that change is about the long game and not the short-term, there’s no reason to be inflexible about the next step!
2. Remember why you’re raising resources, and don’t get distracted. The foundation we use for fundraising campaigns, invitation letters, and appeals has to be able to bear the love for humankind that philanthropy is all about.
It’s possible to raise a lot of money on other grounds—hatred of Others or fear of what they might be doing in the big wide world—and both crowdfunding platforms and traditional fundraising programs do that all the time. But if you love the cause and you want it to run smoothly for a long time, why fuel it that way?
A world that works for all won’t run on misanthropy, so don’t plan on using it to drive your fundraising. Be willing to design resource initiatives around the outcomes and representations of people that you want to see more of, and don’t allow desperation or fear to seep into your resource-raising work.
3. Stay grounded: people trump the numbers. Development can be grueling because it’s essential: resources allow people who care a lot to serve others and make change, and without resources that simply doesn’t happen. Because balance sheets are tangible but our assumptions about and vision for the world usually aren’t, it can be tempting to focus on things we can see and count: how many dollars a campaign yielded; whether a pre-launch deadline was met; how many members served ever give back.
But people have to trump the numbers: a non-profit organization converts in-flowing financial and human resources into out-flowing service, programming, and content for the sake of the community and wider society. It’s not about activity for the sake of activity or income for the sake of income. Whenever that focus and balance is lost, we risk losing the simple heart that keeps staff and donors rightly oriented to each other and to their common mission.
If you’re ever tempted to lose the light spirit of giving, take a cue from Banana Kid. This home video isn’t captioned, but the star teaches us all we need to learn through his body language and openness.