Clerk: Your total is $blahblahblah, would you like to add a dollar to support children puppies hungry old homeless high-school band?
Me: Uhhh, no, not today.
Yeah, cheers, thanks, thanks a lot. *sigh*
I know these kinds of programs raise a lot of critically-needed money for a lot of great organizations – and the beneficiaries who need them. I totally get that. But I think they detract from the profession of Fundraising & Development, create a false sense of “do-gooderism” and make it harder, ultimately, for us to do the real work of development and advancement.
We live in an age where just about anybody can engage in any profession as long as they have a device and an internet connection. You can diagnose your own illness on any number of health sites like WebMD, be your own accountant on TurboTax or TaxAct or act as your own travel agent on hundreds of different platforms.
My photographer friends tell me their jobs are much, much harder now that everyone carries a pretty decent camera in their pocket. EVERYBODY’S got an artistic filter.
Fundraising is the same.
Fundraising has always been this way, though. Bake sales, lemonade stands, change jars at checkout counters, taking up a collection for Sally Sue at work . . . . as long as we live in a money-based economy, somebody will always need to raise money for something. It’s just now we have – like other professions – more sophisticated online tools to do it. GoFundMe, Kickstarter, Indiegogo . . . . the list goes on.
Here’s where I get worried . . . more worried . . . when nonprofits (read: Board Members/CEOs, etc.) start saying, “We need more donors and more dollars; we should do a GoFundMe.” And fundraisers do it. Because LOOK AT ALL THE MONEY COMING IN!
Maybe we need to start differentiating now between Fundraising and Money-Raising.
Take a moment, sit down, pour yourself a nice cup of whatever relaxes you because I’m about to commit blasphemy:
Money-raising is easy. Fundraising is hard.
What? What’s that you say? Raising money is easy? If it’s so easy, why isn’t everyone doing it? If raising money is so easy why are we working so hard at it?
Getting money for something is pretty easy . . . put something out there that tells the world what the need is and SOMEBODY will give money to it. And they might give a lot of money or they might give a little, but then they’ll got and give their spare change to someone else.
But what’s hard – really hard – is building sustainable, long-term relationships with people and organizations who are deeply committed and passionate enough to give of themselves to fund the causes they care about. That’s hard.
That’s day-in, day-out. That’s technique and experience and trial and error and great success and wild failure. That’s strategic excellence vs. widespread mediocrity.
There are days when I think professional fundraisers should rail against the bake sale and the change jar and the GoFundMe for Baby Jimmy’s college fund. And sometimes I think we should shake our fists to the heavens and decry the latest gift-wrap/car-wash/cupcake sale/give-a-dollar-at-the-register program. But, no, they have their place.
And sometimes they have their place in a well-developed, comprehensive professional fundraising program. Part of, not instead of.
But we should hold our heads up high and say what we know is fundraising. We know Development and Advancement and we know how to be strategically excellent. We know how to use an online giving tool in the context of the whole, not just a “if you code it, they will give.”
We know the difference between money-raising and fundraising.