Cookies, popcorn, butter braids, chocolate bars and car washes are the essence of fundraisers. For anyone who’s ever been in clubs as a child, you likely sold (or attempted to sell) any number of these items. If you’ve been involved in charitable work as an adult, you may have attempted to sell banquet tickets, silent auction items or raffle tickets.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the line it was determined that Americans are more likely to buy something in support of an organization, over just supporting the organization and the work that they do. Intentional or not, this mindset has let to hotels and manufacturers of high calorie “treats” making money hand over fist. If the organization happens to have a successful fundraising event, they perhaps get 40% of the dollars spent by those “helping” the organization.
So, what’s a nonprofit to do? Should they stop selling cookies and teach their members to just do a “hard ask” of family and friends to support their causes? Likely not. We’ve now had generations trained that they need to get something for their generosity. Even businesses that support the effort get offered a prominent place in printed program or their logo projected onto the wall of the hotel banquet room.
We must begin to reshape our thinking. Instead of asking “What’s in it for me?” we must ask the question “Why should I support this cause?” The burden is really upon the organization to come up with a clear and meaningful answer to the later question. Somewhere in there should be evidence of good being done in our community for the sake of others.
Giving toward a “good work” shouldn’t need food to be part of the equation. If you believe a chicken dinner or box of treats needs to be part of the exchange, then I would suggest you reevaluate if you are really being intentional in supporting the mission or the meal.
I now work as the Executive Director of a nonprofit, and let me tell you, it has been eye opening! From the attempt to get financial support to volunteer help, it’s a tough job. The irony is, serving the clients is often less strenuous than getting potential donors to support the life changing work that is being done.
One lesson I’ve learned over the past few months is this: Supporting a good work requires a bit of sacrifice. If you are giving of your time or money, both should be affecting you in a noticeable way. If you hand over the $5 in your wallet because you won’t really miss it later, did you really make an impact? If you give an hour of your time because your lunch date got rescheduled, will you really feel it? Organizations have become so (dare I say it?) desperate for anything that anyone will give, the $5 or one hour is snatched up with glee.
So I want to challenge your thinking today and into the future. Why should you do good? It’s an answer worth knowing both for yourself and those you have the potential to impact.
If you’d like to learn more about the work I’m involved in, I would certainly encourage you to visit www.loveincabq.org.