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.

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