Sunday, August 21, 2011

Being a Fundraiser

It's not something a fundraiser would typically say, but I detest fundraising. Really I do.

When most people think about fundraisers, we tend to fall in the same category as car salesmen. We're out to make a sale. But instead of trying to sell you the most expensive car on the lot, we're out to guilt you into giving your hard earned money away to things like an endangered plant you've never heard of or another sad-faced child from Timbuktu.

And that makes a hard job for us too. I have to convince you why giving to our organization is important in the face of thousands of other NGOs worldwide who are asking you to do the same.

So remaining genuine and really believing that what I do is important, that's a challenge.

My first fundraising experiences involved raising funds to go on mission trips and raising support for internship programs. While most of my friends hated these experiences, I never found them much of a challenge. Writing those support letters and sending them out to "Dear Great Aunt Ruth," was easy. I never doubted those personal connections. I knew that those who love me would support me, and I knew that the "cause" I was going for was a good one.

But in my first real job, suddenly I was thrust into a new kind of fundraising position. Initially, I tried to leverage those personal connections, and it worked, sort of. But I was no longer raising support for me, I was raising funds for my organization. The pitch had to change, and for a lot of people that pitch wasn't good enough. It wasn't enough to earn their support. And that's when I started hating fundraising.

I hated asking people for money. I hated thinking that people were always thinking that I was a moment away from asking them for money. I hated feeling like if the funds weren't rolling in that I was a failure. I lacked the confidence in my organization, the confidence in myself and the confidence in God to really ever be a successful fundraiser. So I quit.

But now five years later, I am once again a fundraiser--a full time fundraiser who willingly signed up for the job. I've found that my resume and life experience of the past few years have made me a better fundraiser than I used to be. I know a lot more about marketing and building a strong vision into your fundraising. I know how to woo donors and to build a brand that people actually want to be a part of. But what's more is that I know that what I'm supporting is right at the heart of God, and I know that He daily gives me the wisdom and guidance to be the best fundraiser that I can be.

I definitely don't have it all figured out. Living in a different culture with a different donor climate, makes for a lot of learning curves. Living in a worldwide donor climate highly effected by the current global economic climate, makes for a much more difficult job. But I want to be a fundraiser because we all should be supporting abandoned and orphaned children who are waiting to be adopted. I want to be a fundraiser because I get to lift up and support an amazing team who makes sure that each child in our home gets everything they need. I want to be a fundraiser because every rand, every dollar, means another child rescued and another child adopted. I want to be a fundraiser because I'm finding God at the heart of it, even on its most challenging days.

So I'm going to put on my dress and dust off the heels and head out to our fundraising event tonight. Because when I'm fundraising for precious faces who I love dearly, being a fundraiser is more than rewarding--it's fun.