Reimagining Nonprofit Fundraising
Since Martin Luther envisioned the “community chest” – resources to be used for the poor, the sick, widows, orphans, and others in need, nonprofit organizations have relied on the generosity of individuals like you to pursue and achieve their respective mission. While some charities are funded through government contracts to care for veterans, the elderly, or children in foster care, the majority of the over 1.5 million U.S. charities are funded by the philanthropic efforts of individuals, corporations, and foundations. While we are not the only country that invests in the work of serving others, philanthropy in the United States is a nearly $400 billion annual exercise. No other country comes close.
But too often we hear people complain about too much mail in their mailbox, too many solicitations, too many phone calls. I can assure you, I too have had these thoughts wondering what could be done with the money spent on such efforts. If the $400 billion given each year is a reflection – a uniquely American expression – of our concern for others and our willingness to share our abundance with the organizations that are designed to serve them, then how did “fundraising” become such a negative concept?
The answer could be volume, aggressive solicitations, guilt, fraud (though extraordinarily low in the nonprofit community), and other elements all play a role. However, I believe this is the wrong question to ask. To generate $400 billion a year, requests must be made. Those requests will grow as the size of the problem or the intensity of the issue increases. Requests are made because the need is there. So, the two questions I would encourage you to ask yourself are centered on reimagining nonprofit fundraising:
- What do YOU want to accomplish in the world?
- What does a world without homelessness, hunger, poverty, violence, inequality, etc. look like?
Our grantees, and We Raise Foundation itself, ask for gifts because we imagine what life could be like for others if unburdened by social inequities. We hope to see a future where their full potential can be realized because access, opportunity, expectations, and investments were available to them.
Fundraising isn’t a “necessary evil” as some call it. Rather, it represents an opportunity for you to achieve a significant goal in your life – to help people get meaningful work; to give an ex-offender another chance; to help a child dream of a world of opportunity because they were armed with a good education. These are not only worthy goals but objectives that can change the world. How we get there is most assuredly “necessary,” but a world away from “evil.”
Imagine, with us, what could be if we were not bound by the limitations of what has happened, but rather saw the possibilities before us as a gift to achieve something truly special through our generosity.
Paul C. Miles