Focus, People! Focus!
It’s not at all far-fetched for a global-thinking leader of a performing-arts organization to feel compelled to speak and act on climate change — and to use all the clout at his or her disposal to do something positive.
You’ll get no argument from me about the harmful potential of climate change. But a performing-arts organization cannot suddenly become a quasi-environmental organization — unless the two causes are somehow both in the charter to begin with. (Which is a pretty cool idea, actually.)
A shift of focus breaks trust and demolishes community, even if it’s well-intentioned. Let’s look at our relationship — yours and mine. You (the reader) and I (the writer) along with FundRaising Success magazine (the publisher) form a sort of ad hoc community of interest. You’re reading this because you have some reason to believe there’s going to be something here about fundraising that’s worth knowing.
Now it happens that I can work up a pretty good rant about the Bush administration. I also have strong opinions about certain Microsoft products, unreadable fonts and triangular postage stamps. As far as I’m concerned, my beliefs are 100 percent correct and very important. All right-thinking people should (and, as far as I know, do) agree with me.
But if I’m paying attention, I’ll remember that you aren’t here for my thoughts on any old thing I feel like mentioning. You’re here for the fundraising stuff. If I used this space to push my other agendas, you’d probably stop reading. And you’d be right to do so. My decision to expand the discussion beyond what we’ve agreed on would put an end to our community. (Don’t worry: I’m pretty sure my FundRaising Success editors would keep my irrelevant thoughts from reaching you in the first place.)
That’s how it is for nonprofits and their donors. It’s a tightly defined community with a specific purpose. When organizations get all concerned about issues outside their missions and shift focus, they violate the community, usually breaking it.