We're Going to be Fine
Unlike love, it's not possible to wait for money. But in my line of work right now, that's what we accept. While professions in all sectors are realizing their Achilles' heel in this economy, fundraisers feel like any armor we had has been stripped away. Asking people for money is difficult in the best of times; it takes on a whole new level of stress in the worst of times.
In the old days, when middle-income individuals were tight we wrote more grants to private foundations or visited with more corporate leaders for their support. The white-collar workforce, still inclined to open their quarterly 401k letters, were likely to give once they understood the mission. Pittsburghers are generous. But what do you do when the market collapse forces middle-income folks out of the habit of giving, foundations to put requests on hold, and the corporate leaders who met you for lunch now don't even have money for lunch?
Going to work — a sentence that I will never again take for granted — means donning both a business suit and chameleon's skin. For me, it entails traversing three rivers and three worlds every day. A typical schedule might include a morning working alongside social workers and clients in the most destitute of neighborhoods. As we discuss the challenges of stocking the food pantry with more protein, smiling volunteers, residents of the very community in which we are desperately trying to sustain services, report for duty. They are as aware as any that there is a recession. They've lost the local grocery store, closed for lack of profit or the bus route cut due to the price of fuel. Now, they have even less access to basic needs like food and transportation.
Ask them how they're doing and they'll say, "We're going to be fine." I must balance empathy with respect for their pride.