We write a lot about the structure, process and implementation of major gift strategies in this blog. We write about what it takes to be a great major gift fundraiser and how to build relationships with donors. All of those things are important and necessary for major gift programs to work.
But Richard and I also know that major gift fundraising is spiritual in nature. You may get a little ruffled when I say that, but I want to be clear that I’m not talking about religion here. I’m talking about spiritual in a “small s” way.
Here is what I mean:
Your work as a major gift fundraiser is to help a donor part with or give away something of great value to them. That is, their hard-earned money. The money that has come from their labor is given to do something that will make an impact to change the world in some way.
This very specific act by the donor, of “giving away” to make the world a better place – it not only makes something good happen, it allows her to feel great joy. This is an act of love on the part of the donor.
It is also an act of love by you.
Think about this. By asking the donor to give, you are helping the donor find meaning and joy in life by alleviating some kind of hurt in the world. In that moment of asking and the donor saying yes, a mystical… and if I can be bold here, holy thing happens. This is love. (Tweet it!)
It’s easy to forget this.
You get busy. You’re working your plan. Your boss is breathing down your neck to bring in the money. There are a million little details to deal with. So you often get stressed, or worse, burned out by all the work. You forget and you lose sight of what you are actually doing every day.
And what you’re doing is quite emotional. It’s a reverent act to witness a donor say “yes.” It’s humbling to know that every day you are helping people find meaning and joy in their lives through their giving.
This is why authentic major gift fundraising is always a spiritual endeavor.
As the late Dutch priest Henri Nouwen said in his book, A Spirituality of Fundraising,
“Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.”
As a major gift fundraiser, you have already embraced the mission of your organization, you understand the incredible need; and now you are inviting others to join you. And when they do, it unleashes abundant joy and love into the world.
This is so true. Fundraising for a worthy cause is a ministry – a way to move from belief to action to serve people and reflect values. Instead of referring to charitable giving as “parting with” hard-earned money, I like to help donors come to believe that the “hard-earning” of that money, that is what they do every day can also be seen as their ministry through the financial support of organizations doing the good in the world in which they so fervently believe – good they would do with their own hands if they could.
Thanks, great reminder, will be saving this one.
So true. It’s always an honor to participate in such special moments of trust. I constantly tell our board members that as fundraisers, we are not begging. We are giving people the opportunity to connect with their values and to put them into action through our nonprofit.
Love this. As the bridge between the amazing organizations we work with and the amazing donors who want to help make a difference- we as fundraisers witness miracles every day.
A brilliant book (The Spirituality of Fundraising). One all fundraisers should read.
Absolutely. I have taught a seminar about this on multiple occasions. I first had the idea to teach this class after attending multiple “faith-based” development conferences that never addressed the spiritual (non-religious) aspect of development work. Everytime I lead the seminar (or variation thereof) I am amzed at the number of development officers who say to me, “Wow, I never thought of that>”
I read Nouwen’s book and subsequently gave a copy to one of my major donors (at an organization where I was the Director of Gift Planning and Major Gifts a few years ago). My donor never mentioned reading it, but gave the organization a 6 figure gift a few weeks later, and sent me a beautiful orchid for my desk. That message from Nouwen changed everything for me, since I didn’t realize one could be a mystic and a fundraiser simultaneously! I am living proof it is possible.
The privilege of been a fundraiser is incredible. We are a bridge to joint to opportunities: the opportunity to the beneficiary that needs the support and love from another human being and the opportunity of the donor to share her time, talent and effort represented on the economic gift she gives. We are privileged because we have the opportunity to watch both sides by serving them. These create not only love but synergistic love that expands beyond our own capacity to observe the positive changes and effects in time and space. We become co-creators of love with the all mighty LOVE.