Fundraising as Sacred Exchange

People who give money to a cause expect a return.  Something good will get done.  Something important will happen because I gave.  At first glance, it seems like the basic contract. But look at the fine print.  Much more is being exchanged that just money for a good deed.

Different currencies change hands in a single donation.  In addition providing a charitable service, a wise donor will require trustworthiness and competence from an organization. There may also be an expectation that respect or social status will be delivered along with a tax-deductible receipt.

Corporate donors may expect added business or customer referrals and endorsement of their product to be part of the exchange. A photo opportunity to enhance the company’s image or recognition in the nonprofit newsletter may also be part of the deal.  Rarely explicit, these added benefits are often part of an unspoken agreement.

Charitable organizations may also ask for more than just money.  There may be a need for technical assistance or intellectual capital in the form of demographic information and research.  A nonprofit group may also benefit from association with a trusted corporation that is known to give only to worthy organizations, encouraging others to give as well.  The expectation that a gift will continue to be supplied in coming years is sometimes only acknowledged when it is not renewed.

It is the trust and good will involved that makes an exchange between charities and donors sacred.  Will strings be attached or hidden agendas be promoted? Is a promise conditional? In the language of Adam Grant (Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success), is each party a giver, taker or matcher?

With lines blurring between for profit and not for profit organizations, desired outcomes and resources may be shared by donors and charities. Communication networks, workspace and equipment, legal or marketing expertise may be used by both.  Until existing laws are updated and contracts are clarified, mutual respect and trust is needed to insure fairness and efficiency in the work we do together…

Unless the sacred trust of partnership produces a better relationship and outcome than measured transactions.  Maybe the positive regard, confidence and readiness to give more on both sides is able to create a good that goes beyond our best strategic plans.

When something beyond what is approved by our lawyers and accountants is born, a life greater than our own may come to be. A new creativity and collaboration may lead us into a sacred future we aren’t able to imagine when our giving is limited to a safe 50% that requires personal benefit before giving more.


Corporate Citizenship: Neighbors and Business Working Together

There once was a time when people did everything in the neighborhood that needed to be done and made sure everyone got what they really need.  Then problems grew bigger and many needed more than friends could do and neighbors could give.  So we created government agencies to bridge the gap.

Then government services got big.  They were hard to manage and even harder to pay for.  As we counted on state, county and federal programs to meet our needs, people didn’t help each other so much anymore. But they did work hard to pay for services helping children with disabilities, the elderly, workers out of work and soldiers wounded in battle.  And there was still more to do.

So churches, synagogues and nonprofit charities provided family counseling, addiction recovery, preschool education and job training.  Charitable giving helped the homeless, the hungry and people coming out of prison.  But donations weren’t enough.  So businesses made grants for research to cure diseases, help young people in trouble and support the arts.  More was still needed for disaster relief, medical expenses, protection of life, animals and all creation.

As economic times became difficult, the burden of doing what’s right and paying for it grew heavier.  To be sure that everyone getting paid for doing good was doing it well, requirements and regulations came about that along with the demands of fundraising distracted groups from their first mission.

Could there be a better way?

What if community groups didn’t have to beg?  Maybe corporate profits could be used for doing good by those who need it.  What if profits from money spent in a neighborhood could stay in the neighborhood for improving it?  And all this could happen at a grass root level that keeps track of what is needed most and what’s being done to meet those needs.

If we could partner with businesses while avoiding the pressure of marketing and greed, if social networks could be made stronger and have fun earning needed funds by spending and serving together instead of being targeted and squeezed for more money, maybe we could become citizens again.  Citizens of a new world formed by intentional involvement in a commercial enterprise that values integrity, relationships, and generosity.  With an agreement for mutual benefit aimed at the common good, maybe we can find a way to do everything that needs to be done and make sure everyone receives what they really need again.

Be a better citizen by practicing the kind of innovative capitalism that supports the work you stand for, the groups you know that make the world a better place for everyone and give you a chance to be part of it.  When you become more than a consumer and work together with others, you support local business and multiply financial resources coming from corporations that are glad to make possible the great things you’re doing to change the world.

Today it takes courage, creativity and cooperation to be a good citizen.  Are you ready to see what a few thousand of us can do together?