Generosity partnership

Yesterday I had the pleasure to spend a few hours at one of Seth Godin’s seminars.  If you believe in making a ruckus, if you’d benefit from a day of real conversation (and inspiration, and stories, and plenty of laughs) about why it’s up to you to make a ruckus, then you have to find a way to get one of these seminars.  The day will challenge you AND give you tons of tools to speed you on your way (plus great giveaways!).  It costs as little as $300 a person if you bring a group which is an amazing deal.

One guy I met there, who will soon be running a school, told me that he couldn’t get his old school to pay for the seminar (“they felt like the couldn’t quantify the value of it”).  So a trustee who is a fan of Seth’s sponsored him instead.  I love the notion of not being able to quantify the value of day that could accelerate someone’s journey to becoming a transformational leader.  Kind of a “it’s warmer in the summer than it is in the country” analysis.  (Value of becoming a transformational leader = more or less infinite, right?)


Seth did a session on nonprofit fundraising, which he led off with a riff that began “Fundraising is a generosity partnership for both people.”

Let’s pause get our heads around that for a minute.

A while ago I succeeded in creating a ruckus by writing a manifesto for nonprofit CEOs.  In it I argued that we have to reinvent fundraising, first and foremost by discarding the notion that what we do as fundraisers and nonprofit leaders doesn’t have value.  Of course it does, and when we realize that, when we really own that, we change everything – power dynamics, the sense of our own worth, our motivation and courage to get out there and tell our story, everything.

I still think this is all right, and nearly four years later I’ve also figured out that it’s not the whole story.

“Fundraising is a generosity partnership for both people.”

For both people?  That means we have the chance to be generous. Us.  The fundraisers  Wait, isn’t this about someone else giving?

If fundraising is a generosity partnership, that means we have something real to give, something of value.  That means it’s not just that we need the courage to get to the starting line and recognize that we’re doing something worth paying attention to.  We need to go a whole lot further and recognize the true value of what we are offering:  the chance to make a change in the world; the chance to be part of a group of like-minded people who won’t accept the status quo and who wake up every morning to fight for change; the chance to create meaning and healing and hope and possibility.

When you say it like that it becomes obvious that these things are worth the same or more than the philanthropist ends up giving – they have to be, or why would she give in the first place?  The philanthropists knows this, that’s why she cares and that’s why she gives.  We are the ones who forget it.

“Fundraising is a generosity partnership.”

So when you lack courage, when you’re hiding, when you’re doing everything but getting out there and telling your story, when you’re doing everything but building your tribe and raising the resources to do what you’re here to do, your mantra is:

I have something to give.  I have something to give.  I have something to give.

Something that’s really worth something.  Something that’s worth everything.

4 thoughts on “Generosity partnership

  1. Sasha, two things and one person changed my life in 2005: a bike, a MAC and Seth Godin (ala Purple Cow) I had the honor of meeting Seth and hearing him speak in Atlanta a year ago…the value of Seth would never be quantifiable to me …where would I start. Seth is the marketing world’s Catch 22 – you have to “get” Seth to “get” Seth…I’m afraid that can not be learned it’s just in you like a cicada waiting to come out.

    As for non-profits don’t get me started (I’m going to check out your manifesto) I’m afraid too many in non profits are well…afraid. Like stock brokers, the music industry and soon to be movie newspaper, magazine and real estate industries…no profits are going to wither and shrivel…being afraid doesn’t make you stupid but it sure makes you “stuck on stupid”!

  2. Sasha,
    I was at the Pick Yourself event too! I wish I would have known you were there, I love browsing your content each week. I stayed for the writing and publishing segment and went out to eat during the non-profit discussion. Reading this post, you did two things. First, you made me feel like I missed out on a lot! Second, you also just shared with me the deep meaning of the discussion. For that I want to say thank you. You put the generosity mood in me.

    Best wishes,
    Garth E. Beyer

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