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Beyond Causes

Why are we fundraisers? If our cause was solved, to what work would we commit?

I’ve been a fundraiser for 14 years and served 3 distinct causes. I’ve stuffed envelopes, learned the names of donor’s cats, and raised my glass at endless galas. I’ve studied the science of fundraising and practiced its art. I’ve read the Chronicle of Philanthropy, attended AFP conferences, and have poured through every Panas and Burke book released. This has all been good work. It’s been about causes.

When we join our fellow fundraisers, we discuss the mechanics and trends in fundraising. We exchange ideas about our causes. And the discussion ends with the same question with which it began: How can we raise money for the causes we care about?

But I’ve become bored. I am no longer satisfied. I require a grander story of which to be a part. I need a story that unites fundraisers beyond the mechanics of our profession; a story that includes, yet transcends, our unique causes. A story so compelling that it inspires an elite excellence in our work beyond the here and now of the organization.

Over the years, I’ve wrestled to find a narrative that settles well in my heart. I’ve searched for a big picture that validates the hurts and hopes that I feel when I examine my world. And I’ve come to adopt a story that brings me much courage: humanity and all of nature itself is relentlessly pursuing absolute goodness, a complete cultivation of a whole and rich world.

Some of the oldest narratives across the cultures of the earth point to this movement in their own ways. Look to the Jewish narrative as an example. The world starts in a good Garden of beauty and ends in a very good City, full of justice and abundance. From Garden to City. There is movement in the story and its destination is good.

Likewise, the entire ethos of Eastern traditions is that the reincarnated being can continuously grow in enlightenment and contribution, rather than be destined to broken repetition. There is movement in this story and its destination is good.

I recognize how difficult this narrative is to embrace, given the tragic stories delivered to us day after day. And there exists, without doubt, appalling brokenness all around. Yet, when the dust settles, I do trust the path advances towards a good world. And surely fundraisers must believe this. For if not, the final purpose of philanthropy is but to serve a forever-dying garden.

Fundraisers are offered a rare perspective, for our work pervades through every crevice on earth and beyond. We must acknowledge that our profession starts with a story beyond the technical, cause-based, money raising jobs we possess. There is no other vocation on earth whose explicit purpose is to inspire others to tangibly serve a story grander than ourselves. To be a fundraiser is a privilege indeed.

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