Recently during a nonprofit board meeting, a board member asked the following questions and received the following responses from the advancement team members:
- Q: Won’t asking for major gifts over the next 3 years hurt our annual giving results?
- A: There is no evidence that will occur. We will be asking everyone to make or increase their annual support while also inviting an additional, special gift for our campaign.
- Q: Our donors are giving what they can. What makes you think asking for major gifts will be successful?
- A: We actually haven’t visited with many of our major donors and prospects in a number of years to invite their support in a personalized, meaningful way. Through our research, we believe there are a number of donors who can give more if they feel led to do so.
- Q: We will need new donors in order to make the campaign successful. How are you going to find them?
- A: Yes, we will be asking each of you to identify others in your spheres of influence who may be willing and interested to learn more about our mission and plans for the future. Your invitation is extremely valuable. We also know, though, that our current donors and friends – everyone who is already charitably invested with us like each of you – will be the backbone of support and success for this campaign.
To begin, the board member’s questions seemed legitimate and genuine.
But as the meeting progressed it became clear that no matter the responses from the advancement team, no matter the recommendation from the vice president, no matter the perspectives of her fellow board members, she was not going to be supportive of any activity that would involve inviting people to give more. It became clear that she was struggling with her own call to be more generous.
Practicing philanthropy easily and with joy is a developmental process for humans.
Moving from selfish to selfless, from fear to faith, from scarcity to abundance, and from greed to gratitude are all aspects of the generosity journey each of us travels. Sometimes we take steps forward on that journey. Sometimes we go sideways or even backtrack.
But, almost always, if we pay close attention, the progress we are making (and the questions we ask along the way) illuminate the degree of internal discord we are experiencing on that most personal journey.
Sometimes, unfortunately, it is all about us.