The more I read blogs like GiftHub, and the more interactions I have with Central Dallas Ministries' most significant donors, the more that I realize that my job is less marketing than counseling. Donors do not need to be "pitched" or "appealed to." They need to be heard.
In the years of blogging this is about the most gratifying comment I have received. Jeremy is educated in the liberal arts. In his career he will be taught how to in essence sell gifts. He may be taught all the tax stuff. But in the end this is the key insight that will differentiate his work and that of the ministry from all the others out there "making a case," "making an appeal," "making an ask." Transactional giving is appropriate for small gifts, but transformational giving is the way to create gifts that can fulfill a family, uplift a nonprofit's work, and transform a society. CDM's ministry to the poor is based on the assumption that we are all neighbors. To treat donors that way, as autonomous choosers with a moral sense is simply an extension of what CDM is all about. Donors like the rest of us need to be heard, seen, and loved for themselves in community with others. What a pleasure to hear Jeremy speaking this way. Fortunate are the donors whose fundraiser friends give them this kind of open-ended reciprocity and support.
Who can best hear the donor? The attorney, the insurance specialist, the investment advisor, the tactical philanthropic expert? Could it not be the minister or the fundraiser who works in mission alignment with the rabbi, priest, or minister? Or, could it not be the liberal art professor, or the fundraiser who works in mission alignment with a liberal arts college?
How does your organization foster self-actualization, identity formation, civic virtue? How can your financial outreach be aligned with your mission, so that those who give are in communion with your purpose, treated as civic friends, and as co-creators of a community founded upon an ideal that your own planning process exemplifies? (Live the values of your organization in the process you use to cultivate the high potential donors.)
I realize that I don't do fundraising and am preaching a counsel of perfection. Put it this way, I have preached this gospel to advisors, been ignored as a feckless idealist, so now I am working down the list to fundraisers. Jeremy's response shows more uptake than I have gotten from 99.9% of advisors. That means that a fundraiser like Jeremy, in stepping half out of his role, and taking the donor's side of the table, is performing an essential function not just for CDM, but also for the donor and the donor's planning team. What Jeremy is doing is precisely the part that advisors consciously eschew - "We don't impose our values on clients; we don't do the touchy-feely; we do tactics, not vision." That kind of principaled and totally defensible reluctance on the part of advisors to address meaning, purpose and civic life, leaves open a role that a fundraiser can play, not just as fundraiser, but as citizen, human being, civic friend, and as a member of the planning team.
You went into nonprofit work because you love something larger than yourself. You as a fundraiser are more likely than many advisors to take a larger view. Yes, you are managed, given quotas, taught nickle and dime fundraising systems. My advice is, "Don't buck your nonprofit's system. Do as told. Do the transactions. Process the donors by and large. But be a human being too, and try treating a few high potential donors as human beings and see what happens. You may be astounded that you are sitting at the right hand of the donor as they convene their planning team to make a life-changing and world-changing gift. When you get a big gift or two, then the quota-meisters may cut you a little slack."