It’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S., and many of us are pausing to count our blessings, being grateful for everything good in our lives.
Lots of people, me included, tend to naturally see what’s lacking in their life. It’s just easier to see the holes.
For us, being grateful is a habit that takes effort to create, but once in place, it can bring big benefits. And this is definitely the season for being grateful!
Gratitude is a recognition that all good things come from outside of ourselves — nature, God, the universe, or whatever you believe in. Gratitude opens our eyes to the miracles in life and helps us focus on things outside of ourselves.
As a fundraiser, there’s SO much to be grateful for, with donors being at the top of the list.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve known many people who work in nonprofit who complain about all kinds of things, like Board members who drive them crazy, sponsors who don’t show up to fill their table at an event, or monthly donors who won’t return a call to update their credit card info.
I get it. Life as a fundraiser can be tough.
But right now, let’s focus for a moment on the amazing experiences and the daily miracles that make it worthwhile.
As I think back over my career in fundraising, including both the amazing wins and the dull daily routines, several things pop into mind as things that only a fundraiser has the privilege to be grateful for.
1. The opportunity to change lives. Not everyone has a cool job where the work they do actually makes a difference in the world. It’s awesome knowing that when you do your job, lives change for the better. I remember working at the food bank and having the realization that when I did my job, people ate. That simple truth powered me when things got tough and kept me going to meet my goals every year.
2. Volunteers who give their time. People don’t HAVE to volunteer. In some cultures, it’s not commonly done, and they can’t understand why people in North America work without getting paid. People who donate their time regularly just amaze me. I’m in awe of the guy who drives the Mobile Meals vehicle every Thursday and the woman who reads to kids at the library twice a week. These dedicated folks make the world go ‘round, on top of providing a steady service to the nonprofit they care about.
3. The chance to be creative. Working in the nonprofit world isn’t always easy. Sometimes you have to figure out how to do a lot with a little, and it’s a chance to get those creative juices flowing — especially when you know lives counting on you. These are the times that you find new uses for recycled materials and go crazy with $10 at the dollar store or get really good at asking for in-kind donations. I was just saying to a client the other day that crisis often is the breeding ground for creativity because in a pinch is where we find new options for getting the job done.
4. Friends who work in fundraising. I’ve always found nonprofit folks to be the most generous, compassionate people in the world. Many of my dear friends also work in nonprofit. I think there’s a lot of truth to the old saying that “birds of a feather flock together.” We sure do a lot of flocking in fundraising!
5. Unexpected kindness. You never know when someone will do something that takes your breath away or brings on the tears. Maybe it’s the new homeowner who just completed a Habitat for Humanity program and wants to make a $100 donation to the organization (and you KNOW they don’t have an extra $100!). Or the family who just picked up a food box and shares it with their neighbors, even when they don’t really have enough to eat themselves. People’s kindness just leaves me in awe sometimes because they give so much of what they have — even when they don’t have much.
6. The high of a successful event. There’s nothing like the joy of sweet success. It’s the most amazing feeling when you work for months planning an event and everything comes together beautifully, and on top of that, you raise a ton of money shooting past your goal! Plus, everyone leaves with a smile on their face, having had a wonderful time, and you hear people talking about it for days afterward. Like I said, it’s sweet.
7. Generosity. There are always people who amaze me with their generosity. Like the woman who made a first-time gift of $10,000 to the food bank and said “We just inherited some money and wanted to give you part of it because you do such good work.” Or people who donate a vehicle to help one of your program participants get back and forth to their new job. Or the donor who gives you a check for $25,000 to fund your kids program and says “let me know if you need more.” Even when things seem dark, there are still good people in the world.
8. Grateful donors. One of the most amazing experiences I ever had in fundraising was getting my first $25,000 gift from a donor, and having them tell me “thanks for letting us do this.” It absolutely knocked my socks off! My donors were grateful for the chance to give. Turns out, that giving feels really good and they were glad to get to do it.
9. Miracles. Sometimes, you get to see something astounding happen. Like when a Mom comes through the line at a soup kitchen with her kid, and you find out it’s the kid’s birthday. Then, you remember that someone dropped off a cake earlier that day. You add some candles and voila! Instant Birthday party! Then the Mom starts to cry because her child has never had a birthday cake before. Total miracle. And amazing to witness first-hand.
I’ve had some truly amazing experiences as a fundraiser that I wouldn’t trade for anything. And I’m grateful for it all.
What are YOU most grateful for? Leave me a comment and share what’s on your mind.