Fundraising

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A lot has been written about David Rockefeller’s philanthropic legacy in light of his death last week at the age of 101. From support for local community improvement projects to investing in NYC’s major civic institutions, Mr. Rockefeller’s giving totaled an estimated $2 billion over his lifetime.

David Rockefeller worked hard to transmit what a New York Times article characterized as his family’s philosophy of giving – humility, responsibility, and engagement – through various charitable vehicles. Under this philosophy, we owe a common debt to each other, and much is expected of those who receive.

But while Mr. Rockefeller championed appreciation-fueled giving, his philanthropic interests reveal a deeper motivation than simply giving back. 

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Posted on in Fundraising

Working in the nonprofit sector is stressful – and even more so these days.

Providing programs is stressful – both creating and implementing the right programs, and matching the need for services to the money available to fill that need.

Managing finances is stressful – allocating funding across budget lines is never easy, and in times of scarcity it can become even more difficult.

Overseeing people is stressful – particularly when we don’t have the money to reward fine service appropriately.

Fundraising is certainly stressful – especially when the future of innovative programming rests on you.

And finally, looking ahead to maintain that strategic vision, is stressful nowadays – when the environment is throwing zingers our way at any random moment.

The counterweight?

Finding the love. 

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We’ve all seen them: Meetings where board members report on what they’ve done, agree to take on tasks, offer to support one another (“I’ll help you with that Suzy”). Meetings that crackle with deliberation, discussion of tactics towards a common goal, decisions, and commitments to action.

And we’ve all seen their opposite: Meetings that get lost in a swirl of details, tangents, anecdotes, pet peeves. Where “everyone has their say” and the debate goes round and round, nothing really resolves, and everyone leaves it behind till the next meeting when the discussion gets picked up right at the beginning all over again.

What makes the difference? There are a number of factors, but the most meaningful is a strong chair. 

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Nonprofit work is never done. We know that job descriptions read 120% if not 150% – and board members are volunteers with plenty of other pressing concerns on their plates.

Given the never-ending onslaught of tasks, initiatives, responses, emails…why should we spend time repeating an activity that was checked complete a few years back?

The answer lies in that very onslaught. It’s easy to lose sight of why we’re all here – why our cause matters so very much, given the daily cascading of issues in the news.

For those of us whose issues are tangentially connected to the headlines in today’s news – and for those caught right in the heart of the storm – it pays to reaffirm the case for our organizations and our cause.

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It’s impossible, in most nonprofit jobs, to get everything on your plate completed.

Efficiency issues aside, most nonprofits are staffed under a scarcity model – not enough resources to hire all the people needed to do the job right, so each nonprofit worker wears three hats and takes on multiple assignments that, collectively, assume 36 hours in a day to get it all done.

That’s old news. And there’s plenty of literature around about self-care for nonprofit staff, the importance of work-life balance, etc.

But what about now, when events outside our office door are riveting, whipsawing, compelling and pulling us even further away from getting our “day job” done? 

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