|We think asking for money is like hanging our dirty laundry|
Many scholars argue that money is the number one social taboo in America (see also Krueger, The Last Taboo). Even religion, sex and politics are better discussion topics as far as most of us are concerned.
|The Fundraising Taboo|
When viewed as being about money fundraising, at best, is seen as an onerous chore; a necessary evil. We’ll put it off for as long as possible – sometimes forever. This is why many organizations find themselves in an endless cycle of cultivation, never getting around to the “ask”. We even get as far as making solicitation assignments to our volunteers, and they often tell us they are willing. But they back burner the job. We call and remind them. They say “yes, I’m meaning to do that soon.” They don’t. We call again. Nada. Zip. Effectively, we say “no” on behalf of our would-be supporters – never even extending them the courtesy of making their own decision. Before you know it, the year has ended and we’ve effectively avoided doing our chore.
Why do we do this, especially with organizations we love? When we serve on a board (or as a committed donor) aren’t we making a statement about our values? And if we truly value something, wouldn’t we want to share our values with others and enable others with similar values to also participate in the wonderful mission of which we’re a part?
Fundraising is not about money; as a servant to philanthropy it’s really about love. And we mustn’t say “no” to love on behalf of others. People are perfectly capable of doing this on their own, and they should be able to make their own choices. What makes us feel okay about denying others the opportunity to feel fulfilled? As one of my fundraising mentors and founder of The Fundraising School, Hank Rosso, said: “Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.”
Once board members understand their role as noble “philanthropy facilitators” (as teachers rather than ignoble fundraisers) they can shift their brains from a place of “detestable” to a place of “honorable.” Most of us genuinely want to help others. We want to care about something other than ourselves. We welcome someone reaching out to touch us… to motivate us… to inspire us to the actions for which we yearn.
I love the definition of philanthropy coined by Bob Payton, professor emeritus at The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, as “voluntary action for the public good.” Every word has impact. Philanthropy is voluntary; not coerced. It’s action; time or money given, and it’s directed towards the public good. In other words, it’s not about money. It’s about helping.
Philanthropy is based in values. Development uncovers folks who share the values your organization enacts. Fundraising matches the donor who shares those values with the organization that enacts them. Presto! We’ve suddenly shown others the path to be the change they want to be in the world. That’s why “fundraisers” are such superstars. Fundraisers are the catalysts that make change happen.