It's Not About the Money … Why Fundraising Is a Mystical Experience
Twenty-six years ago, I started my first job in fundraising. I worked for a small nonprofit in Philadelphia on the third story of a dilapidated building. We were so small, not only did I write the appeal letters; I also folded them, put them in envelopes, licked the stamps and took them down to the post office.
I got really good at stuffing envelopes … like scary good.
The one part of that job that I really miss today was opening the return envelopes. Yep, I was also the one-person caging operation. The reason I miss that task was that I got to see and touch a tangible expression of a donor's gratitude.
Gratitude? Yes, gratitude.
I remember opening the mail and reading the little comments from donors on the reply device about how they were so happy to help. I remember looking at the scribbly handwriting on a $5 check that was surely from an old woman who wrote in the memo section, "So happy I could give this to you ..."
I remember thinking how long it must have taken her to write that check.
At 23, I don't think I totally grasped the wondrously mystical moment that really was. However, as I've grown older and reflect back on this, it is precisely where I learned that fundraising really isn't about the money. It's really about an exchange of labor and values.
And, it's about love.
What? Why are you getting all mushy about this, Jeff?
Well, think about it. When donors decide to hand you a check for your organization, what are they really doing? They are handing you their hard-earned labor in exchange for the opportunity to make the world a better place.
Yes, their labor. The same labor that puts food on the table, pays their mortgage and helps their children through college … they have decided to give YOU some of that.
Whether that is helping feed a starving child in Somalia, saving an animal from the streets or building a new wing of a hospital, donors hand over a part of themselves and trust you will steward it for good.
I really believe at that moment there is something mystical about that transaction. And, I don't want you to overlook that.
I know there is a lot of pressure on you to view fundraising as just "getting the money." It comes from all sides. Your boss is pressing you. Your colleagues are passing you with their monthly goals. There's pressure from the board. It would be easy to just go after the money.
It's at that time you have to pause and reflect. You have a relationship with these donors. They believe in your mission. You have a responsibility to take good care.
If you like baseball, tennis, golf, Gregorian chant, jazz, rock, good wine and deep conversation, then you’ll like to hang out with Jeff.
If you are passionate about fundraising, Jeff will inspire you to be a true “broker of love” for your donors, helping you bring together a donor’s desire to change the world and the world’s greatest needs. Jeff believes that if nonprofits truly want to grow and obtain more net revenue for their mission, it will come through creating, building and successfully managing major-gift programs. The Connections blog will give you inspiration and practical advice to help you succeed. Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit fundraising experience and is senior partner of the Veritus Group.