The Sower for All Seasons of Philanthropy: A Seasonal View of Resource Development
I know many people who love to read for simple enjoyment. They learn things from “how-to” books. Others simply read fiction to get away from reality or place themselves in other worlds at other times. Books provide a window to many worlds. As a young student I always focused on books that dealt in reality. Throughout my career I continue to read books and articles relating to the world of philanthropy. I also read posts from my peers. I enjoy these posts a great deal. That said, I love to write based upon my experiences that blend theory and practice.
A recent book that I enjoyed was “The Sower” by R. Scott Rodin and Gary G. Hoag. This Christian-focused publication provided universal concepts that all of us can utilize in our daily work. It redefines development work as ministry in the Kingdom of God. According to these authors, God is the ultimate fundraiser. One universal concept that stood out for me from this book is the concept of seasons for sowing seeds. Each practitioner has to work through a calendar year that involves four distinct seasons. What does this time concept mean for a sower of seeds for nurturing resource growth?
To sow is to scatter seed over land or earth for growth—and not just seed for crops. To sow is also to introduce, promulgate or disseminate ideas. If you think of it, our jobs are to constantly sow the of seeds of information. In my job, I sow on a daily basis with the hope of reaping at some point in time. Factors such as water plus the food of knowledge are important to aid seeds in their growth and development.
Rodin and Hoag note that a sower must shift one’s thought processes from a simple transaction to transformation. This also involves moving one’s passions, interests and reasoning for such things as philanthropy in a different way. If you believe that you are making a profound difference in your nonprofit resource-generating role by helping others in society, you will be better able to grasp the concept of being a sower of seeds. Your job is to transfer your passion and excitement in your cause so others can carry your torch.
Look at the calendar year of resource development ahead of you. You must work through the seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall each year. As each cycle ends, another begins. Do you work with seasons or quadrants in mind? If you take a seasonal view of your work, there are specific activities that direct you through the process of planting seeds, tilling the soil and harvesting the ultimate rewards. Here is a guide for each of the four seasons:
In this time of year one must create the plans and strategies for the year ahead. You must develop a toolbox of needs for the year to be successful. This might be recruiting a new volunteer committee, identifying new leadership, and developing priorities, materials and an impactful case for support. This is also a time when one educates and communicates to all constituencies the importance of having resources to help others. Ingrained in this time of focus is changing your philanthropic culture to embrace the joy of acquiring time, talent and treasure.
During this time of year, communication is critical. Face-to-face meetings are important. Teaching and information-sharing is a must. The act of building and maintaining relationships is high on the priority list. Leaders are seeking transformation in having others use their material and spiritual gifts to understand the true importance of their resource development work. Quantity and quality of engagements is important. You must transfer the fact that it is not about you, but about the institution you serve with passion and conviction to others. Make sure you have the right tools to relay this information to specific entities, such as corporations, foundations and individuals.
At this time of the fiscal year, staff, volunteers and administration are making asks and engaging prospects to participate in the life of the organization. Leaders inspire prospects and influence their giving for all of the right reasons. Leaders also encourage donors to engage their friends and contacts to also join in the mission of the organization. Through knowledge of philanthropy communicated on an individual basis, we hope donors will grow and inspire others to join the organizational bandwagon. Over time, volunteer solicitors will begin to understand that giving is not just a process of asking but a joyful, unprovoked act of giving back to help others.
During this time of year, the harvest of many asks bears fruit. Time, talent and treasure provide bountiful results that fund programs, services and dreams. Leaders celebrate in a physical and spiritual way. Goals are achieved, and the operational plan is critiqued and modified in preparation for the next season. The process of engagement and communication continues as stewardship begins in earnest for all concerned. It is also a time to recharge personal batteries and recognize and thank all involved for success.
In summary, in your role as sower, you constantly focus on planting seeds throughout your philanthropic land and fiscal year. Create a positive attitude of transformation and promote the joy of giving. Understand the special and unique role you play as a resource development professional. Whether you realize it or not, each year hundreds of people depend on you for an array of services that they simply cannot provide. It is a tremendous responsibility made easier when you can recruit others to share in the ownership of resource acquisition and seed dissemination. It is true that you ultimately reap what you sow. Think big; sow wide and deep.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.