We live in frustrating, pain-inducing times. There’s war, there’s sickness, there’s hunger, there’s injustice, there’s needless death. Uvalde hit me hard. Those little ones and what they went through!
It’s easy to feel powerless. But fundraisers, we need to act.
I’ve been thinking – a lot – about the emotional impact of gun violence in the US, and how it affects us all.
We have a serious problem. But as one person, it’s easy to feel helpless, even alone.
Yet, little kids are dead today. And Black people in Buffalo. And so many others since then. Because we feel powerless to change our laws. To make people safer. And maybe we are powerless in the face of a well-connected gun lobby and fearful politicians. I hope not.
At my church, we had a service of lamentation. In this context, lamentation doesn’t just mean grieving. It means communal sorrow – coming together to share our sorrow.
My priest had something important to say about the service, though:
Prayer is not an action in itself; rather, it is the action we take to discern and fortify whatever it is we need to do next.
The Rev. Helena Martin
This is where we come in, fundraisers.
I went home and made some donations. I needed to. Because rage-tweeting is a release, but it doesn’t accomplish enough.
That’s one reason fundraising matters. Because when people are feeling powerless, or angry, or empathetic, we can provide a solution. Helena was saying, “It’s not enough to feel bad. DO something!” And we fundraisers can provide a way for people to do something.
As fundraisers, we often think about beneficiaries – about the people or cause our organization supports. And that’s right. Because nonprofits don’t (or shouldn’t) exist just to exist. Our organizations have a reason to be.
But it might help if we also think about the needs of the people who give. They’re choosing to be part of our missions. And they have needs your mission can fill. And in filling them, fill your mission as well.
Fundraising messages that answer needs
Of course, in a practical, tactical sense, those needs can drive your messaging. And they should. I’m sure I’m not the only person choosing to give to gun reform organizations right now. Or women’s rights organizations, either.
Thinking about what will move people is critical. But think with both your head and your heart. Fight any cynicism.
Because fundraising is capable of helping both donors and beneficiaries. And you’re the conduit. You connect one need to another. You build community by shortening the distance between those needs.
We can be the connection between different needs
There’s certainly a difference between people who need food and those who need to feel better. But what if feeling better connects the donor to the food pantry client… both simply as people?
What if acknowledging needs – not exploiting them – empowers our humanity?
When we feel powerless, giving is one way we can feel some control.
When we feel guilty, giving can feel like atonement.
When we feel sorrow, giving can feel like love.
As fundraisers, we can choose to craft our messages to meet the needs of the community. To answer people’s need to help, so they don’t feel so helpless. And in doing so, to help someone who needs it.
That’s powerful stuff. And it should also feel like a powerful responsibility. There’s no room for dishonesty, even if it raises more money.
It requires empathy. It requires us to share the same feelings we’re answering. To be vulnerable and to feel others’ pain. Cold calculation feels safe, but it’s shirking our responsibility to share.
None of us wants to feel powerless and alone
Good things can happen when people don’t feel alone. We need to be part of communities. (Just look at the GoFundMe pages for the Uvalde families.) When we hurt, we need to know other people are sharing our pain… in whatever way, and to whatever extent they’re capable of sharing.
But being unafraid to share feelings is also part of successful fundraising. You do, of course, have financial goals to meet. But you have something more weighty, more important: you have human connections to make. You have healing to offer.
And sometimes, you have sorrow to share.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash