Professional fundraising is one of those fields in which people’s latent beliefs about money and resources surface very, very quickly, either in support of an initiative or in ways that leave it isolated. There’s just no way to deal with funds, budgets, needs, and asks without revealing whether you yourself live in a limited world or an abundant universe.
Learning about Abundance
When a social justice non-profit invited me to step in as development director a few years ago, one of the first things I did was talk to Leanne Carlson who runs a year-round philanthropy institute for professional fundraisers. Most of Leanne’s regular participants work full-time in the medical system and foundation sectors, so why’d I pick her? I’m not a medic; nor do I work with an institutional foundation. But Leanne does fantastic work nurturing awareness of generosity in others, the philanthropy institute’s tagline is The Abundant Future, and a premise of abundance and supportive possibility is what I wanted to guide my work with and through my non-profit.
There is no true scarcity—only disconnection of resources. We live in a sea of possible partners and allies. Yet we often engage and capture the imagination of only a tiny portion. Many of those who could bring resources, intelligence, and energy are right around us. But we must learn to engage these allies in new ways. — Leanne Carlson
Across issues and specialties, social justice non-profits often suffer from a lens of lack: “We can’t do that because we don’t have the budget… If people gave more, we could do so much more.” The problem with that kind of negativity is that over time it seeps into leadership letters, undermining relationships with donors (really: you don’t like guilt trips, so why would your prospective donors?), and hindering how creatively organizational staff leverage the resources and relationships they already have to hand.
Where Messaging Comes From
We run our default messages about how the world works because of our earliest training and experiences. Our families of origin, our ethnic groups and religious subcultures, our nation’s storylines, our educational environment—all of these shape our working model of the world and what’s possible for “people like us” in it. Many people go life-long without challenging their or their family’s working model, but fortunately just as many people do question the assumptions they hold as adults. There are alternatives to a default of scarcity!
If, like Alisa and me, you’re rewriting some old scripts around resources and possibilities, consider seeking out an institute of abundance-oriented peers to support you. You don’t have to join a formal program, though I’ve found that beneficial myself. You might also link up with a more informal peer circle like the one I’ll be launching this March. The style isn’t that important: what matters most is the group’s foundational premises and how deeply members are committed to the logic of abundance and the open and supportive connections that flow from it.
Bottom Line: Create Well
You run the messages you run now because of the web of influences that taught them to you early on. While you can’t scrub your mind of what your earliest networks taught you, you can participate in alternative webs of influence, adopt different premises for the opportunities you take, and reroute your everyday orientation to the world you live in.
The field is wide open. Create well!