I will never forget a 1967 summer job I had in mid-state New York working at a funeral home. We not only had to pick up folks who had passed away but, most of the time, I had to stand in the room where the deceased was on display and help the loved ones and friends left behind find their way through their grief as they visited with the family and friends of the deceased.
Many times, the experience was calm, civil, and grown up. But on too many occasions I was witness to the arguing and nastiness that went on in the room about how the deceased’s estate was going to be divided.
And this is where I saw, first-hand, how the money had gripped people and caused them to radically change their life-long relationships from kind, loving, mutual and supportive connections to in-the-trench adversaries vying, if not for all of the deceased’s estate, then, at least, for a bigger share.
It was so sad. And it was a real education on how money can hold a person in its grip and change them into selfish, bitter, clutching people.
Just recently, I had another one of these money-grabbing experiences. A friend of mine had his inheritance grabbed right out of his hands by another family member. Poof, just like that! And there was no shame or guilt associated with the grab. No remorse that a life-long relationship of caring and support was irretrievably broken. Nope. Just an aggressive grab. It left me speechless.
How can someone do something like that? I don’t know. But it reminded me once again about the power of money. It can make people do crazy, hurtful, and selfish things. But it can also be used for good.
That’s why Jeff and I, in our second book It’s Not JUST About the Donor, write about the spirituality of fundraising. While it’s easy to know about and experience the negative things about money, as I have described above, there are also some very positive things. Money is used by good people, all the time, to do incredible things.
And in those cases, the person’s interaction with their money and the good that is within them works together to deliver, in our opinion, an expression of goodness that is spiritual.
Now, we’re not talking about religion or spirituality with a capital S. (Although, all the major religions embody giving as a major part of their practice). What we are saying is that something mystical happens when a donor gives away something of value (money they earned through their labor) to help change the world.
Not only does giving do good in the world, but it also changes the donor. It makes a donor happy and brings them joy. Think about this. A donor gives away something they’ve earned, and it brings them immense joy. They’re letting go to gain something greater.
As you work today in mid, major, or planned giving, remember this: every time you help a donor give to something they’re interested in, you are helping them express their inner goodness – you’re helping them express their spirit, their wanting to help, to make things better.
This is what makes your work spiritual. You’re helping the donor loosen the grip their money has on them just like it does for all of us. This is good.
As you journey through this profession of helping donors change the world, you’ll become more and more acquainted with the power of money in a person’s life. And the learning from that enlightenment will do two things for you:
- It will help you strive to be a better fundraiser who genuinely matches your donor’s passions and interests to the need your organization is addressing.
- It will help you be a better person yourself, so that when you’re faced with the opportunity to clutch the money and be greedy and selfish, you’ll have the strength to make a choice for goodness – you’ll be able to keep money and its power in the right place in your life.
Jeff and I thank YOU for the good work you’re doing to help donors make our planet a better place and to use money as a force for good. There’s nothing quite like it!