Switching gears a bit this month, I want to take time to reflect on some current events. I also want to remind us all that what we do matters, and that innovation and out-of-the-box thinking must continue in order to propel our industry forward and enable the missions and work of the organizations we support.
The events over the past couple of weeks have put a lot of things in perspective for me, and have truly reminded me why I love what I do, and why I do what I do. The work we do in our industry affords us the rare opportunity to make a positive impact in someone’s life (human or animal), and perhaps even change the trajectory of their life entirely. And that is a powerful, yet humbling notion.
Hurricane Harvey decimated Houston and its surrounding areas, and Hurricane Irma has devastated the Florida coastline, having already left a massive wake of destruction behind her.
The news reports are horribly depressing, and the images and videos are heart-wrenching.
As fundraisers, many of us are scrambling to suppress SCFs from our mail files so we’re not mailing into affected areas. Some of us are prepping emergency appeals to raise additional funds. But all of us are sitting around our budgets and cashflow reports trying to quantify and project the impact of these events on our current and year-end giving.
Nothing is wrong with that at all. It’s our job. But what are we doing as people? What are we personally doing to give back to the communities in need?
Well, I know that I’m not doing much of anything. I’m sitting behind my laptop every day, growing more and more disenchanted as I listen to news reports, and worrying more about how to parse data or read some test results.
But I also have that nagging question in the back of my head. You know, the question we always call out our donors for having: What difference am I really going to make? These folks have lost everything. What can I possibly do to help them rebuild?
During my mini existential crisis, I stumbled across an article about the Houston Texans’ defensive end, J.J. Watt, and his massive fundraising campaign.
Here’s a guy who set out to raise $200,000 to help the city he loves, and to date, has raised just under $30 million. And what’s more, he and his teammates are out in the community spreading some goodwill and hope.
Of course, his celebrity status helped him succeed in this effort, but the point is that he started this campaign simply as a person wanting to do something good to help his community. That’s the take away.
Sometimes I lose sight of the human side of my job and this industry. I get so focused on the numbers that I forget that there is a human component to all of this. That there are missions behind the organizations I support.
“ ...humanity steps up for each other.” – J.J. Watt
This human component cannot be quantified in an annual report or in some model. I think the closest we come to quantifying this is through the number of likes, shares, views, and retweets that take place on social media. And even so, that doesn’t give you the full picture — we will never truly be able to quantify the emotional factor that drives many of us to donate or participate.
There is something amazing and motivating when you see a stranger helping another stranger get to safety. Or a group of rescue workers trying to save the stranded dog on a roof top. (Let’s not forget about our furry friends, and the organizations who advocate and protect them. They are victims, too.)
But, it’s this human component that fuels the work we do. If there is no mission, there is no fundraising.
It’s this human component that drives the passion and love that I have for this industry. It’s the reason why I got into this profession to begin with. Funny how one can lose sight of that.
Maybe this month’s post is more of a therapeutic exercise for me, but it has helped me refocus and has reminded me what my job is really about. Yes, it’s about the numbers and performance, but at the end of the day, it’s about the people we help through our clients’ missions.
What we do as fundraisers and philanthropists matters — it matters a whole heck of a lot. But what we do as people is what matters most.
P.S. Next month won’t be such a somber post. I will get back to the big thinking on how we can move this industry forward.
P.P.S. For those of you I saw in Chicago, it was great catching up!