This month’s theme is “Scary Moments in Fundraising” (see our Water Cooler chat, here). I prefer to talk in optimistic terms, so writing a follow-up blog post rather puts me off. However, like it or not, we are living in scary times. Even if we are vaccinated, we are watching world leaders start wars and our national leaders pick snowball fights instead of governing. Watching these events leaves me feeling foolish that I continue talking about fundraising planning techniques. Is there a way forward, anyway?
I grew up in poverty. One of the lessons of poverty is this: If a resource appears, use it. The second is that anything can be a resource. I have used this scrapper skill set during my career, most recently during the 2009 economic crisis, where my team identified wealth still available and my organization shifted from major gift cultivation to making annual giving asks.
Here are some ideas: (you knew that I would pivot back to optimism, right?)
Covid isolation was a time to reconsider our lifestyles, and we did.
The Great Resignation wreaked havoc on our labor market. While we struggle with that shift, however, we are rethinking labor pay rates, job descriptions, and what we really want service for. I miss getting to go to restaurants still (some of our local restaurants have limited hours because of staffing needs), but I’ve used my frustration to learn how to cook more interesting dishes. I now also have complete control over my ingredients. And I’m home in the evening. Remember when we were always home for the evening?
The turmoil in US politics woke us up.
One of my favorite activist moments was walking with the women of New York City, wearing a pink cap, yelling, “This is what democracy looks like!” We can not escape hearing the opinions and plans of our elected governors and candidates. We would have to hide in a cabin deep in the woods to not be exposed to the issues at hand. Given that, as fundraisers, we have an obligation to push our elected leadership to benefit the people that our organizations serve.
Wealth churn is a good thing for fundraising.
As our ethos moves from the patron (major gifts focused) fundraising system to community-based fundraising, it does our world good to see the 1% spilling some of their wealth. Watching Elon Musk turn a company purchase into the kind of circus that a 17th-century king would orchestrate has me chuckling over the number of lawyers, marketing people, and administrators who are getting paid to help him foment his chaos. Wealthy people running for office pay a lot in advertising and other picketing activities, and I love watching them spend.
War brings to light our obligation to each other.
We may have ignored the women of Darfur or the girls who were kidnapped from a Catholic school in Africa, but we are paying attention to the (white) people in Ukraine who are under attack. We step outside of our own lives and become engaged in something bigger than ourselves. Even knitting hats for Ukrainian soldiers helps or sending blankets to the shelters for immigrants waiting at our borders. In this crisis, I can not call myself “woke” (especially since I don’t know if I am – that’s a judgment for someone else to make about me), I can call myself activated.
I remember a documentary detailing how some people drank all day to deal with the Plague when we
last had one (during the Middle Ages). They figured that the world was over and they partied like mad. In the end, their drinking kept them alive. However, the people who were out there growing food despite that so many laborers died and the people who were picking up and burying dead bodies were the ones who kept the world functioning until the Plague was over. Frankly, I like being in the latter group.