We often discuss the mostly futile attempts by some organizations' development supervisors to have their staff professionals meet faulty "standards" of performance, as they look for that "industry standard" to a "Return On Investment (ROI), and other such financial ratios. Meeting and exceeding all of the initiatives set forth in a well-designed fund-raising plan never seems to be enough. Often, unreasonable and unreachable goals in terms of numbers-only, are set and imposed. Those bosses sometimes do forget the real meaning and value of dedication, integrity, and hard work on the part of their professionals. They sometimes see numbers, not people.
I wanted to tell you about what I did recently, "from the other side of the desk," when I temporarily lapsed into a fixation over benchmarks, with myself forgetting the human condition.
Last week, I met with an official of our Church to offer a special contribution for a program she heads. The committee evaluates the cases of fellow parishioners in desperate need of money to pay overdue bills for household utilities, rent, mortgage, medical expenses, and other critical needs.
I have a history of assessing and evaluating the financial "sustainability" of non-profit organizations and know it to be one of the key factors donors use in deciding whether or not to make contributions. Grant-making organizations and donors in general want to be sure their money will both go to a worthy cause and be wisely used.
While most solicitations of donors are made without the presentation of spreadsheets and statements, we know that numbers usually do count, and that at the very least we better be ready to produce them when requested.
Thus, I found myself pressing hard those lessons learned from my non-profit evaluation experience when I began asking the church official questions at length about the designated recipients of our proposed donation.
I probed the "worthiness" of those in need of the generosity of our gift. I asked questions such as:
-- What degree of research goes into the amounts requested?
-- How sure is the church that the beneficiaries will use the money for the purpose for which it is given?
-- Will the recipients do their best to get on their feet so that further assistance isn’t needed?
In the middle of a question, I suddenly stopped and began to silently query myself:
-- Had I completely forgotten what philanthropy is?
-- Where had my belief in charity gone?
-- Had I lost my understanding of the humanitarian intent of my gift by encumbering it with strings of implied “accountability?”
-- Was I making units of measurement more important than an act of compassion?
As I struggled with those thoughts I realized that something even worse was in danger of happening. I was inadvertently dismissing and diminishing the good work the Church committee were doing to address the very issues I was laboring over.
Arriving home, a thought came, no doubt appropriate to the Church setting. I remembered what the apostle Paul wrote: "God loves a cheerful giver," and that reconnected me to what our gift was really about.
I had been completely unaware that my searching, and to a degree intrusive, questioning of of the Church official was the reverse of the thoughts and actions of a cheerful giver. My concerns were too much about my desire to know who was getting the money, how much they were getting, and whether they really deserve it. I had momentarily lost my understanding of the spirit of giving. I had become a "grim giver."
I realize taking the "cheerful-giver" attitude too far can cause us to overlook the rational path we usually want our money to travel. But, there are times when we do not need to fret about our (ROI), "Return On Investment." There are times when we don't need to wrap our giving in hard logic.
For me, in the end, this was one of those times. Temporarily, I had forgotten, that our parishioners' desperate need to receive was the perfect balance for my need to give.
Though somewhat off from the usual nature of PND Talk topics, nevertheless, my little story may fit in some way to encourage development staff supervisors to look less to the numbers they need, and more to the needs of their people, and to even suggest that program officers and contributions managers could lean a bit more to emotion as best they can with other people's money, than only employing logic, when they are thinking of giving us money.
Should this little essay be of use, you can see it more formally from the following link:
--- When I Forgot the Meaning of Philanthropy http://www.raise-funds.com/2011/when-i-forgot-the-meaning-of-philanthropy/
Tony Poderis http://www.raise-funds.com
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