A colleague of mine – someone who has never been a formal part of Acumen’s fundraising team but who has done a good deal of fundraising – said that a series of recent meetings with new donors reminded her of what it means to raise money. She said:
The act of fundraising changes you, it changes your perspective. When you sit there and look someone in the eye, it forces you to do two things. First, you have to have your story straight: what are we doing and why, what are the details, how do all of the pieces hold together? More important, though, is the sense of accountability you have to that donor when you’ve had that conversation. You’ve made a promise to them, and knowing that changes you and makes you want to work harder than ever to deliver for them.
There’s something real about face-to-face, personal fundraising that I don’t experience anywhere else – not online or with social media or crowdfunding platforms, not in institutional fundraising or grant-writing (even in situations where you have strong personal relationships). When someone gives their personal money, when someone sits down and writes a personal check to your organization, it creates a deep connection. If you choose to see it and experience it, that sense of accountability can be internalized – first for you and, over time, into your organization. In that personal connection and experience, you have the chance, long after that meeting, to transform yourself into an agent for that donor – not literally to do everything they would do (because they’ve given to you because of what you do and know, because of the perspective and professional judgment you bring to the table) but to give them a seat at the table, an important spot in your mind and in your heart.
Our opportunity is to have everyone who does this work be a fundraiser. Not their full-time job. But why would we pass up the opportunity to get at least a glimpse of the sense of ownership, discipline, and, yes, obligation it creates?