adjective \ ˈrä-(ˌ)rä , ˈrȯ-(ˌ)rȯ \ marked by or expressive of ardently enthusiastic spirit
There is something magical about a great fundraiser. The right mix of energy, emotion, storytelling. Board members, donors, staff, often participants. Speeches, paddle raises, dessert dashes. Throw in a few great cocktails, beautiful clothes and a few of your closest friends, and it’s as fun as a girls night out (or in, for the introverts reading this!). A great fundraiser leaves you feeling high, full, bought-in. You leave believing.
I know this. I know this because I’ve attended my fair share of magical fundraisers and events (and an equal numbers of less-than-exciting ones, but that’s for another post). Let’s be real, the photo booth doesn’t lie. #photoboothaddict
noun / rēˈalədē / the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them
But what happens at a fundraiser isn’t real. It’s an experience. Curated to hit all your soft spots until you make a “personally significant” gift. And it’s all perfectly orchestrated. But, there is a level of truthiness to what you hear at an event.
In the 10 years of work in the nonprofit sector, I been witness to a lot of dizzying amounts of truthiness, and on occasion, been party to creating them. There are few organizations I have worked with that remain truly honest with their stakeholders. And this statement, by no means discounts the work of professionals in this sector that make the world work for people. Quite truthfully, our sector has some of the most talented individuals, driven by passion and purpose.
But back to reality —
A few years ago, following the Haiti earthquakes, the Red Cross published the building of more than a hundred thousand permanent homes to the tune of a cool $500M. But when journalists went looking and found no more than a half-dozen, and threw up a flare, the organization “acknowledged that the “130,000 Haitians figure is made up of people who went to a seminar on how to fix their own homes, people who received temporary rental assistance, and thousands of people who received temporary shelters”. The delta between 6 and 130,000 can’t be blamed on a database error. It’s very much a human one.
At this moment, you’re thinking, but I support a $1.5M or $2M organization and they have no reason to hide their impact! Think again. The delta between the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them is huge. Any guesses as to whose job it is to close them?
noun / rəˌspänsəˈbilədē /a thing that one is required to do as part of a job, role, or legal obligation
Yours! You! Me! All of us!
We the donors, we the stakeholders, we the funders — we are all responsible.
If we give, and especially if we are on the Board of Directors of an organization, it’s our responsibility to do the due diligence. Ask questions, reach out for information. Any organization committed to change will be happy to share how they work, what they measure and who is benefiting from their efforts. If you come across one that is cagey or buries you in buzz words and vague language, stay clear. With a few exceptions, if a leader is anxious about taking you on a site visit or sharing number — see it as the red flag that it is!
We are responsible for holding leaders accountable and we are responsible to our clients. They need us to be bold. Today.