You Are Champions of Hope
“Hope springs eternal” as Alexander Pope famously said in his poem, “An Essay on Man.” Essentially, Pope was saying that we continue to hope, even when something seems unlikely.
This spring we’re met with year No. 2 of a pandemic. Russia invaded Ukraine and countless innocent lives have been disrupted, traumatized or worse — lost. Our world is facing ubiquitous inequality, famine, homelessness, disease, environmental crises and now war. It’s a lot. But is all hope lost?
Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.” Like you, I suspect, I’ve been gripped by the news. A great majority of the world is inspired by the spirit of the Ukrainian people, both those who chose to stay and fight for their homeland and those (mostly women and children) who are fleeing to friendly bordering countries. And certainly we are inspired by the unlikely hero who is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It’s hope that inspires us.
The invasion of Ukraine is the age-old story of David and Goliath. Yet Ukrainians have a fierce defiance, love and loyalty to their homeland, and their fighting spirit to protect their families and freedom is their superpower. They keep hope alive.
Keeping hope alive also describes what the nonprofit sector is about. Humanitarian relief to Ukrainian refugees and in-country citizens has been extraordinary. We see hope alive in the surge in charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations providing front-line relief in the form of food, water, shelter, emergency medical care, equipment and supplies. We even saw (non-tax deductible) charitable support in the form of 61,000 Airbnb nights recently booked – not for stays, but to lend support. These bookings grossed more than $2 million in direct support to Ukrainian hosts.
When we give money, we feel hope and we give hope. We demonstrate who we are or hope to be when we give. In other words, our charitable giving is one of the ways we express our identity.
In fact, according to research led by Dr. Jen Shang, co-founder of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy and the world’s only philanthropic psychologist, there are nine adjectives that Americans use to describe a moral person. When these adjectives are artfully woven into fundraising communication, we raise more money and inspire greater loyalty.
In addition to the recent outpouring of generosity to Ukrainians, we consistently keep hope alive here at home in the U.S. According to Giving USA 2021 report, Americans gave more than $471 billion in 2020.
As usual, the biggest slices of that $471 billion pie went to religion and education at 28% and 15%, respectively. The largest percentage of increased giving was in the area of public-society benefit, aka social justice. Giving hope and feeling hopeful that love will conquer hate and goodness will triumph over evil, despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary.
I’m grateful and proud to have devoted 20-plus years of my career to my profession in this sector. I hope you’re grateful and proud of your work in the nonprofit sector, too — whether you’re a career fundraiser, an executive director, a CEO, a board member or volunteer for a cause in which you are deeply passionate.
So often, those of us working in the nonprofit sector are conditioned to adopt a humble-pie mindset. "We’re just this little nonprofit trying to do good work,” nonprofit executives will say. While I appreciate humility, I need to break some news to you. You are a champion of hope, and you likely don’t hear that enough.
Thank you for the hours and hours you pour into perfecting each appeal and relentlessly analyzing every segmented list of names and addresses from the database. Thank you for relentlessly laboring over that grant application until you’re forced to click the submit button at deadline. Thank you for asking for money in a culture where asking for anything is uncomfortable for the majority of people. And thank you for giving generously to causes that give help and hope in your community and around the world.
Former President Barack Obama has said, “Hope is the thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.”
Thank you for courageously fighting for hope. It’s the only thing stronger than fear. You and caring, compassionate nonprofit leaders and donors everywhere are evidence that hope does indeed spring eternal.
Tammy Zonker has been recognized as one of America's Top 20 Fundraising Experts. She’s an inspiring international speaker on the topic of transformational philanthropy and an AFP Certified Master Trainer. Over the past 20 years, she has trained, coached and led nonprofit teams to raise more than a $500 million including a single gift of $27.1M. Tammy moved to Detroit in 2008 determined to successfully raise money in the most challenging economy in the U.S., and has turned those experiences into strategies, tools and processes for skyrocketing fundraising results in any economy. When not speaking at conferences or fundraising, she's training her online membership community of Fundraising Transformers, or leading fundraising masterclasses, training intensives, and private workshops and retreats.