It Takes Money to Make Change

 In fundraising

When we were little kids, did we ever aspire to be a fundraiser?

Yet here we are today.  A profession that we all “fell into to” on our way to doing what we really wanted to do. And what was that?

I was going to be a fireman…actress…teacher…homemaker or farmer.  I knew I liked selling. As a girl of nine and ten years old, I would collect fallen chestnuts from my neighbor’s yard, paint them, put them in egg cartons and sell those cartons door to door from my red wagon. I can still remember the thrill of the sale.

In college, I knew I wanted to work with nonprofit organizations, so after college dedicated my career to everything from women’s rights to criminal justice to the environment, where I have spent most of my fundraising life.

It wasn’t until I was working at the Sierra Club in the early 1980s that I gained some purpose to my career path. I asked this well-known consultant why he chose to work as a fundraising consultant. He said, “Because in fundraising, you get to influence what an organization does. No other job gives you that kind of power.” That’s when I learned that it takes money to make change…social change that is.

What’s ironic is how many nonprofit executives, board members, and even development personnel and consultants feel ambivalent about money and the donors who have money.  Some of my development colleagues thought the statement “it takes money to make change” while cute, was a bit pushy or over the top. One executive director told me that he thought people with money were “bad.” But this taboo and bias against people with money can permeate organizations, with program people feeling they are doing “God’s work” while fundraisers are debasing themselves, “begging for money.”

The other side of the coin concerning money is that fundraising directors and executive directors can sometimes feel not as powerful as their donors or their board members, which then feeds into their distaste of fundraising and their lack of confidence in this arena.  So another job of the fundraiser is to model confidence, power and presence so that you and others can ask any donor to support your organization.

And there’s yet another myth that surrounds people’s ambivalence about money: some people believe that if you are doing good work, then donors should automatically support your group. You shouldn’t have to ask.  It’s like church – you just give.  And if you have to ask, it’s distasteful, demeaning, and not a nice thing to do.

The funny thing is, donors do not have the ambivalence about money or its “power” to do good work that the people working in nonprofits do. They see you as giving them the opportunity to contribute to work that they feel passionate about and want to help foster.

Keep in mind that fundraising is one of the best professions to be in right now. It’s age, gender, and ethnicity neutral.  Good fundraisers can command good salaries and good jobs.  High performing nonprofits understand that to do the work they want to do they have to raise money. And they need fundraising leaders to help their organizations realize their goals.

They understand that it takes money to make change.

Leave a Comment