I Am Awesome. You Are Awesome.
A few years ago, while discussing a learning opportunity, a colleague of mine said: "The last thing I need is to sit and listen to a bunch of fundraisers talk about how great they are."
At the time I was pretty offended. Now I think maybe she was right. Fundraising professionals really do look to each other for validation. We build ourselves up, cheer each other on and even have award ceremonies for each other. We need to inspire and support each other because we are still a long way away from this profession garnering the public support and respect it deserves.
On one occasion at a major-donor cultivation event, I somehow ended up on the receiving end of a lecture about how fundraisers don't need to get paid. In fact they "shouldn't" get paid. I set my immediate defensive instincts aside and tried to patiently justify my paycheck by explaining that I have specific training. I pointed out that since hiring me, my organization had started raising significantly more money for program delivery — the programs that she loved. I was dismissed with a wave of the hand and, "Yes, well, you ALL say that."
To make matters worse, several times a year major news outlets seem to go on the attack. These news stories are usually out of context and full of untruths. They perpetuate the myth that we beg, steal and manipulate in order to raise money for our own personal gain. These articles imply that somehow charities operate in spite of — not because of — the work we do.
The most recent occurrence was something I read in a newspaper from Australia. It seems a reporter attending the Fundraising Institute of Australia's national conference accused the fundraisers of "meeting behind closed doors" — at a conference. Any laughter or sarcasm in the session on legacies was reported to be at the donor's expense. Moves management of donor relationships was put in quotation marks — the implication being that we are manipulative and unethical, paying outrageous sums of money (conference fees) so we can secretly strategize how to rob old and dying people of their assets.