Published by Gillian Gurish on 13 Jun 2012 at 10:00 am
Speaking as someone brand new to the biz, fundraising can be a tricky endeavor. It is often seen as a job solely about taking people’s money from them – not really a pleasant occupation, even when it’s for a good cause.
But in RelationShift, Bassoff and Chandler seek to reframe the entire concept of fundraising, arguing that it is really a job that is about giving instead of taking. They propose a complete 180-degree shift in the way a fundraiser thinks, and this shift really takes place in the fundraiser-donor relationships. Those relationships are the most fruitful and meaningful to an organization – those individuals that care enough to help support your cause are far and away the most critical players in your organization.
Each chapter begins with one of the major “fundraising myths;” the authors discuss why the myth is wrong and harmful to an organization, and then offer a new way of thinking that will benefit both your donor and your cause. For example, chapter two begins with the myth that “fundraising is a science.” The “reality shift” that the authors propose is that fundraising is not a science at all, but really a “lost art–the art of relationship-building.” The chapter goes on to explain that the mindset of a fundraiser who sees themselves as “takers” leads to embarrassment (and who wouldn’t feel at least a little bashful when they feel like they’re constantly asking others for money?), and that embarrassment leads to the attempt to remove any bit of human emotion from fundraising and thereby removing the awkwardness. This way of thinking is completely backwards, according to our authors – fundraising is ALL ABOUT emotion, and trying to take it out of the equation will only lead to dissatisfaction for both the fundraiser and the donor.
As a person who has only been in the fundraising field for a few months, I found this book a welcome relief and insightful guide to a strange new world. Bassoff’s and Chandler’s personal, emotion-based approach makes much more intuitive sense to me than does the more awkward, scientific view that fundraising is about taking. Fundraisers, in fact, are givers – they give opportunities to create a positive impact for a cause in which one believes, and they give that oh-so-delightful inside knowledge about an organization about which a donor cares.
The real reason this book spoke to me is not because I am a fundraiser, but because I am a donor myself. There are a few organizations to whom I give consistently every year, and I give to them because of my emotional connection to them – NOT because they send me an automated, boring “thank you” card or a pen with their logo on it. I give because I know personally the people working at the organization (they’re my Facebook friends), and the people they serve, and I want to see that service continued. From a fundraiser’s perspective, that is exactly the kind of donor I want to attract – not necessarily someone looking to just dole out cash, but someone with whom I can build a meaningful relationship that is based on an important cause we both care about, not a dollar sign.
If you’re at all intrigued by the mystical world of fundraising, I highly recommend RelationShift - it’s definitely a game-changing, view-altering text, and it’s written with compassion and wit. I know I think about fundraising in a completely different and very positive light after reading it, and look forward to seeing where my career in the field leads.
How do you think about fundraising? Are you a frequent donor to non-profits and social good organizations? What motivates your giving?
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