Faith Like a Child
"Dear Lord, please fix Brother Ray's broken heart." Brother Ray McNames, the pastor of my church, is fond of telling the story of the 5-year-old girl who said that tiny, touching prayer when she heard that he was in the hospital because his heart wasn't working right. "If I'm ever that sick again and I need prayers, put my life in the hands of a 5-year-old child. You can pray that prayer over me any day," he says.
Faith like a child. You hear about it all the time. And as important a concept as that is for the spiritually devout, it can be equally as important and appropriate in other areas of life … like work, especially if you work in a field where all the figures and formulas in the world mean nothing if you're not working from a place in your heart where hope springs eternal — a place of deep faith, where problems do get solved, hungry folks are fed, people live freely and with dignity, animals are safe, war is passé, diseases are but memories, human lives are rich with easily accessible art and education, and any number of other splendid things happen.
Is that place real? In its entirety, no. At least not at the moment. But faith that we're getting there … one problem, one child, one cat or dog or horse, one illness, one museum, one thing at a time … is what fuels fundraising. It's what keeps you all awake during the day — and sometimes at night. It's what stops you from leaving the nonprofit sector for a more glamorous and lucrative gig in corporate America. If you stop believing, then the long hours, the frustration, the ability to smile when yet another major donor tells you no — none of that seems worth it if you've lost your faith in what you do, your faith in people and your faith in the world's ability to respond to positive change.
All of this comes to mind for two reasons. I was incredibly touched and humbled by the work that was represented by the more than 100 entries in our 2010 Gold Awards. Plus, I just reread Katya Andresen's To The Point column where she outlines eight ideas to help you re-energize your fundraising and says, "There's no better way to get out of the metaphorical weeds than to ask advice from someone who is only a few feet high."
Faith and vision, like a child, go a long way. Many of you are gearing up for that all-important end-of-year push for donations. While you're reminding your donors and other supporters about the importance (and tax implications) of making a gift before the end of the year, remember to think as children, with the kind of wide-eyed enthusiasm for reaching a goal — whether asking God to fix your pastor's broken heart or raising enough money to keep the shelter open, cure a disease, fund a major exhibition — that can only come from not even knowing that failure is an option.
As we fall into fall and the beginning of the holiday season, I wish for you that kind of faith, that unfettered vision and an enthusiasm for doing good that resonates loudly with your donors and fuels their support through the holidays and beyond.