I've been reading (well, listening to actually) this book called Never Eat Alone which is all about relationship building and networking. Overall, it's pretty interesting, but yesterday I came across a section in which the author referred to fundraisers as having the "unenviable job" of asking people to willingly part with their hard earned money. He gave the impression that he thought fundraisers had a job that no one in their right mind would want to do and thank goodness some poor souls were willing to take it because he sure wasn't about too. Sales was much easier.
I have to say, I took exception. A LOT of people envy my job! I mean, not mine specifically but the ability to say, everyday, that what you do is helping people. Sure everyone in my office can do that (even the non-fundraising staff--but really, everyone is a fundraiser) but it spoke to the common misconception that fundraising (we in the field call it development) is all about going to parties, rubbing elbows with the wealthy and getting all you can out of people you meet. There's sometimes a disdain from non-development people who think my job is going out to lunch all the time (which I do get to do but I wouldn't call it a perk) and that we're somehow doing the dirty work. Fundraising is a necessary evil and we should keep our pure program people well away from the dirty money.
People who see it that way are missing the point.
Fundraising/Development/Philanthropy is NOT about money. It's not about wealthy people or squeezing the very last dime you can out of someone. Philanthropy is about seeing wrong in the world and having the desire to invest in the righting of those wrongs.
Most people look around and see the unfairness of life and want to do something about it. It might not be long term or any type of grand gesture but every time you see one of those commercials where the puppies and kitties are looking through the bars of their cages or cowering in the rain because some heartless human left them out in the cold you are compelled to act (even if it's just changing the channel because the images are too harsh). You hear a story on the news about a tornado that left hundreds or even thousands without homes. You see a truck full of pigs on their way to the slaughterhouse. A dead deer on the side of the road. These things point out the unfairness or cruelty of life. Most people are moved to action by one of these things--even if that action is only to feel something.
But what do you do about it? Most people don't have the first clue. But a brave few have put feeling into action and created a plan to change things. But they can't do it alone. They need others who believe what they believe to invest in their plan. It's not always money--it can be time or expertise but usually, money is the easiest way for people to get involved and feel like they're making a difference. The amount doesn't matter. If you believe in the plan, do what you can to see that it succeeds. That's philanthropy. My job is to find people who believe in the mission of the organization I work for. If there are others out there who think our plan can right a wrong, I want to get to know them and help them see how whatever they are doing to further our cause is working and that we are moving forward because of them.
Now tell me--who wouldn't want to do that for a living?