How Leaning Into Fear Can Change the World

Lean into fear to inspire caring

Lean into fear to inspire caring

 

A very accomplished friend of mine recently wrote a beautiful and provocative article I want to share. It resonated with me on many levels, not the least of which spoke to me wearing my hat as a philanthropy facilitator and nonprofit coach.

Thank you Tara Mohr for having the courage to share On Political Fear. Tara writes:

 I don’t do othering. I don’t think one party or place on the political spectrum has a monopoly on truth. I think we all need to be speaking up right now.

Tara, in speaking up, describes herself as “proudly afraid.”

Are you “proudly afraid?”

If you work in the social benefit sector, you should be. It ought to be part and parcel of your job description.

Because how can you persuade people to join your mission otherwise?

Nonprofits exist because something is not as it should be.

And there is a danger that if that thing is not repaired, needless suffering will occur.

Are you ever afraid of what might happen if you don’t reach your fundraising goals?

If not, might I suggest that you take a page from psychologist Tara Brach’s book, True Refuge, and open yourself to the full force of what might happen should your nonprofit fail. She writes,

“In the weeks before the [Iraq] invasion, I read the newspapers with an increasing sense of agitation… So I decided to start a newspaper meditation… Almost every day, as I’d open to anger and feel its full force, it would unfold into fear—for our world. As I stayed in direct contact with the fear, it would unfold into grief—for all the suffering and loss. And the grief would unfold into caring about all those beings who were bound to suffer from our warlike actions….

Sitting with the feelings that arose in my newspaper meditation left me raw and tender. It reminded me that under my anger and fear was caring about life. And it motivated me to act, not from an anger that focused on an enemy, but from caring.”

From fear… to grief… to caring.

Personally, I was bowled away by this concept.

And perhaps it’s why storytelling has become the meme du jour in marketing and fundraising. Because it’s in stories, not dry facts, figures and proposals, that we are able to get in touch with our deepest and rawest emotions.

If we only dance on the surface, we can’t connect on a primal level. It is from such connections that the most passionate, and compassionate, commitments are born.

Let me tell you a story about leaning into fear to inspire caring.

It’s about a friend, an artist and the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, who grew up hearing accounts of the unraveling of civil society and the horrors that ensued. When she looks at what is happening in politics today, she is afraid. And what is she doing with her fears?  Leaning into them. Big time. She’s wondrously secured endorsements from the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis; now all that remains is the funding to host a multi-cultural, inter-religious art exhibit that aspires to build understanding and empathy, bringing people together rather than tearing them apart. Working with her to raise these funds, I am inspired.

My friend is proudly afraid. She understands the importance of empathy to the survival of our species and planet. And she is honored to be a part of the story of survival.

What story are you a part of?

Every nonprofit is part of a story that springs from fear and finds its happy ending in caring.  Not just the ones that cure disease, end abuse and violence and respond to natural disasters. If people are starving for nourishment, the arts may be their salvation. If children seek a pathway upwards out of poverty, education will be their deliverance. What will set you free?

If nothing about your cause really makes you afraid… if there’s nothing about your mission that you feel with full force… if there’s nothing about those you help that makes you want to grieve… perhaps you’re in the wrong place?

More likely, you just need to meditate a bit on why you are where you are.

If there’s an unspoken danger that you’re afraid to address, speak up. Dive deeply into your story, and tell it. Begin by telling it to yourself. It’s the only thing that will drive real change.

Thank you Tara Mohr for sharing a bit of your story. For leaning into your fear and talking, tenderly, about what you hold dear. I hope we can all learn from you.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

— Margaret Mead

Photo by David Castillo Dominici, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

How to Use Peer-to-Peer Fundraising to Grow Year-End Giving

Ask your advocates to raise their hands on your behalf!

Ask your advocates to raise their hands on your behalf!

 

Thinking about how to get more new donors this year?  Wondering if you should purchase lists?

Consider this: Response to peer-to-peer fundraising is about 25% compared with direct-to-donor campaigns where response is 1 – 2%.

Why?  People respond better to people than they do to organizations.  Especially when it’s people they know and trust.  Continue Reading

Nonprofit Overhead Worth: When is More not Less?

Nonprofit Overhead Cost: When is More Not Less?

Light bulb idea: Why not spend what it costs to get the job done effectively?

 

In A dollar more (vs. a dollar less) Seth Godin provocatively suggests you consider a race to the top.

This made me immediately think of the nonprofit overhead conundrum.  Too many nonprofits feel stuck with trying to justify the amount of money they spend on staff and infrastructure in a race to lure more donors to their cause.

The common wisdom (really nonsense) is that “a dollar less” is good. That the less you spend, the more effective you are.  “Lean and mean” is supposed to be a good thing.Continue Reading

Important News about Relationship Fundraising: Stop Losing Donors

Do you know how you may be breaking your donor's heart? Keep it up, and they'll break yours.

Do you know how you may be breaking your donor’s heart? Keep it up, and they’ll break yours.

 

This is important.

It’s about a new report that may change how you do fundraising.

It should.

Let me explain.

Unless you’ve been asleep at the wheel, by now you should know that most nonprofits have been hemorrhaging donors.

By tending to focus more on expensive, staff-intensive acquisition strategies like direct mail and special events, charities are bringing in one-time donors who never give to them again.Continue Reading

The Secret of Donor-Centered Fundraising: No Money Involved

The heart of donor retention: It's not about moneyDonor-centered fundraising is not about money.

Huh?  If that first sentence has you scratching your head, it’s time to take a moment.

I know. You’re thinking this is just semantics.  You’re thinking that, of course, fundraising is about money.  You’re thinking we can pretend it’s about something else but, seriously, we need money to fulfill our missions. I know what you’re thinking.

I want you to stop thinking that way.  Because it’s getting in the way of you raising more (ahem) money.  So… close your eyes. Breathe.  Clear your mind. Ready? Okay… now…Continue Reading

Making the Most of Matching Gifts: 6 Easy Steps

Double the donor sweetness!

Double the donor sweetness!

 

Imagine you’re baking a cake. You put in the flour, eggs, milk, and sugar, whip it all together, and put it in the oven for an hour. But, when the timer dings and you open the oven door, you find that instead of one perfect cake, you have two!

This situation is physically impossible (unless you’re a wizard or a magician), but it’s a good illustration for how matching gift programs can benefit your nonprofit.

When donors take advantage of their employers’ matching gift programs, they essentially double the amount of money that they give to your organization. Two cakes (I mean, donations!) for the price of one!Continue Reading

8 Tips Fundraisers Can Learn From Street Beggars

Your money can become my sandwich

What I learned from a street beggar* (see “Note” below).

Last week a street beggaraka panhandler asked me for money and I gave it to her.  I don’t usually do this because I wonder how the money may be used and tend to give, instead, to philanthropic organizations that help the homeless and marginally employed population.  This time was different, and I want to share with you the lessons learned.  Here’s her pitch:
Can you please give me $2.00 so I can buy a sandwich? Maybe a little later for lunch?
This amazingly simple request – and everything about her approach and follow-up –works on multiple levels.  And the principles apply not just to street beggars but also to nonprofit fundraising:

Continue Reading

6 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors

How to make donor thank you calls and keep more donors!

Thanks so much for your gift. It really means a lot!

 

You’ve got to make donor retention more of a priority. It’s one of the top five things your nonprofit must do to survive and thrive in today’s competitive nonprofit marketplace.

Research shows the average nonprofit in the U.S. loses 79% of donors after the first gift!!!!!

To make matters worse, the probability that a donor will make five consecutive gifts is only 10-15%. These numbers are just not sustainable for most organizations. By the time you’ve added a new donor most of your previous new donors are out the door.

Allow that to sink in a moment.

Do you know what your donor retention rate is? If you do, there’s hope for you to improve it. Read on. If you don’t, you don’t even know there’s something that needs fixing!Continue Reading

The Meaning of Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – Part 2

The meaning of Culture of Philanthropy

Get on the path to philanthropy, not fundraising

 

In Part 1 I laid out why philanthropy inspires, and fundraising tires.

Fundraising must be done, of course, but there’s something about how it’s been practiced in the past that turns too many people off.  It’s been connoted as being all about money, when really it’s all about valued outcomes.

These valued outcomes are shared by many who support the cause – donors and non-donors.  Employees and volunteers. Development departments and program departments. Major gifts staff and annual giving staff. All these folks have a collective stake in the nonprofit’s survival.Continue Reading

The Meaning of Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – Part 1

The meaning of Culture of Philanthropy

Get on the path to philanthropy, not fundraising

 

I wish I’d told my younger self “you’re right!  Stick with it; don’t get distracted. Stay the course.

Here’s what I’m talking about: Philanthropy, not fundraising.

This has been the tagline for my business and blog since I began Clairification in 2011. It grew naturally out of my experiences working as a frontline development director for 30 years. I’ve always insisted that no single person could possibly receive credit for a donation.  “Donors don’t give because of development staff,” I’d tell program staff.  “They give because of the great work you do!Continue Reading