Hey, brother, can you spare a dime? Or a dollar? How about $10,000? Can you imagine the audacity of asking for money in this kind of economic climate? What kind of person would do that?
Well, a pretty normal person, as it turns out.
Just to be clear — I work for a BIG organization that raises money. BIG money, in fact. So while the money coming in will definitely slow down, we’ll probably keep the lights on. I’m adjusting our messages a bit to be more sensitive to the context of the times, but by and large, my job won’t change. I stay busy defining what gets said, not saying it. And that keeps me a little insulated from the cold reality of a deepening recession.
I had lunch yesterday with a bunch of folks who don’t have that luxury. They are front-line fundraisers. Many of them bear the sole responsibility for raising money for their organizations, and many of those organizations depend on charitable giving for operating budgets — the money that keeps the lights burning, that keeps the doors open, that keeps the much-needed services coming. And, no surprise, the people who are responsible for finding and securing those gifts are having a much harder time of it.
Here’s the irony: the forces that are causing so many donors to keep a tighter grasp on their purse strings are the same forces that are increasing the need for the crucial services many of these fundraisers make possible. I’m talking Red Cross, children’s health programs, job training, and more. And these folks — the normal hardworking folks I had lunch with today — are forced to work within this double bind — increased need and diminishing resources.
I’ll be blunt. I’m convinced that now, perhaps more than any other time in my lifetime, philanthropy matters. And not just the sort that makes the headlines. Not just the philanthropy that names buildings or creates endowments. It’s the philanthropy that happens when you realize that it’s not just something you do when you think you’re able. It’s something you do because you realize that you are pretty much always able.
That’s the sort of deeper obligation to one another — to strangers, even — that we’re often too busy to feel, let alone honor. And that’s the sort of obligation that lifts us all — both those who have and those who don’t. And that’s the sort of obligation that my lunch mates are hoping folks will feel, and feel soon.
Think about those who would benefit from a gift from you — those at your alma mater, or your local food pantry, or a women’s shelter, or a job training program or a … there’s no end of possibilities.
So how about it, brother (or sister)? Can you spare a dime?