Can reimagining the role of generosity cast a new light on giving as a disruptive act?
There’s a lot a talk about disruption these days. Disruptive technologies that stand to change the way we communicate or do business. Disruptive modes of speaking that broaden our lexicon and challenge our dictionaries of record. Disruptive thinking that stretches our views of the world, our communities and even ourselves.
But what if in the nonprofit world disruption is happening all the time around us, in ways so common they’ve come to be viewed as par for the course and not credited as the game-changing acts they are?
In the social-cause sphere, nonprofit campaigns and fundraisers abound. Target audiences, identified prospects and longstanding supporters are tapped for contributions. Letters of acknowledgement and thanks are issued as a matter of procedure. And organizations will reach out again, at a later date, with another ask for the next program need or annual fundraiser.
This process, on the surface, may seem rote and predictable. But within this routine series of events lurks the disruptive act of the donor as change agent.
Donors Are Everyman
Author and philosopher Edmund Burke once said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”
In the eyes of some, being a donor is only for a select – and privileged – few. Though the major charitable gifts provided by the well-known, well-off and well-connected are the subject of headlines and news notes, donating is actually the province of everyman. That is, being a donor is within the capacity of individuals from practically ever rung of the socio-economic ladder and from various strata within our diverse communities.
Whether supporters give $25, $250, $2,500 or $25,000, donating can serve as an equalizing form of advocacy and disruption. Every dollar makes a difference. And both the net and compounding effect of that giving, in the aggregate, is meaningful to organizations on the receiving end. Just a few $25 donations can make the difference between funding one or several kids for a summer camp. Similarly, a few hundred dollars can signify the gulf between making due with current assets or giving a cause the flexibility to invest in newer technologies that enhance daily operations or programs.
By donating at various levels, people are empowered to show their generosity at a level according to their current ability, or in proportion to their comfort and trust level with an organization. Moreover, the byproduct of this democratized giving can be a viral one. Friends and family members of donors may begin to see that charity is within the grasp of many; they, too, then might be inspired to give, having witnessed donating as an accessible, rather than exclusive, act. At the same time, associates of higher-dollar donors may be likewise motivated, as they grow increasingly aware and knowledgeable of the causes important within their circles.
Donors Are Doers
The most well-intentioned among us make declarations and promises all the time. Perhaps this tendency is a matter of human nature or encoded in our collective American subconscious. Either way, many of us probably cannot begin to count the number of times we’ve heard a friend, colleague, family member or even ourselves say something like, “When I get enough time, I’m going to . . . “ or “One day, if I ever get some extra cash, I will . . . ,” or “When my schedule calms down, I’m certainly planning to . . .”
Donors get dibs on the bragging rights of making good on their goals. Giving is a productive act – one that first begins in the mind, commonly sparked by an event, experience or exposure that creates the impetus for contributing. Donating, then, requires proactive action on the part of the donor. Writing a check, making an online contribution, committing to a pledge or even enrolling in an auto-draft donation program are all purposeful acts.
Donating cannot be calculated in terms of man hours, like those who help a cause by participating in a service project, for instance. However, that the act of monetary donating does not break a sweat or deliver in-kind resources (like paint, brushes, nails or glue) does not diminish the very tangible outcomes provided dollars can produce.
Donors Are Deliberate
Donors exercise agency.
They become aware of a need, issue or cause. They deepen their level of awareness. They often talk to others about the topic. And then they move to action by literally “putting their money where their mouth is.”
“In our busy lives, with so many demands and obligations, it can begin to feel like we exercise minimal control over what we do and don’t do. Conversely, donating is a decision; it is truly a choice,” says Wakeman Agency CEO and founder Vanessa Wakeman. “Taking the lead to support something you believe in, when not required by anyone outside of oneself, has enormous appeal.”
How else can the narrative around the donor be reframed to catalyze increased fundraising? Can an expansion in our groupthink about donors benefit nonprofits’ coffers – and organizations’ brand awareness? Share with us in The Wakeman Agency’s Facebook community.