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Fundraisers: Are You On The Hero’s Journey Right Now?

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We are in a worldwide panic — fear and anxiety are breeding faster than anything else. This is our call. And we need to answer the call.

This means it’s time to go on a quest.

Are you ready?

What’s the hero’s journey?

Joseph Campbell describes the beginning of the hero’s journey as having 3 steps. First, you resist the call to adventure. Then, you get the call thrown at you over and over again. Despite your resistance, the problem does not go away. It gets worse. People die. Finally, reluctantly, you face the call. And decide you have to do something about it.

If you are resisting the call to do things differently right now, you are not alone.

A lot of us are stuck in fight, flight, freeze or fawn mode. We are uncertain of the future, so we pretend if we do nothing, or go on with business as usual, this whole problem will go away.

This virus is not going away.

Not for you, not for anyone in the world. Whether or not we get a vaccine in the next 12 months, the world, as we know it, has changed radically.

Which means your fundraising needs to change radically. And it means your approach to your donors needs to change radically too. Business as usual is going to ensure the death of your organization.

“When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence … it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

If you are seeing the consequences of not facing this fear, you are not alone.

Is your boss encouraging you and your team to work just as hard as you did at work before the pandemic?

If you are feeling exhausted, anxious, and freaked out, you won’t perform at the level you did before. That is NOT going to happen. This is your boss not realizing we have to do things differently now. 

The consequences will hit your boss by having people walk away from their jobs. When a fundraiser walks away, it costs 117% of their salary to replace them.

Speak this inconvenient truth to power. Tell your boss we MUST shift our way of working. What if you have kids at home right now? What if you need therapy to deal with the trauma you’re working through right now? What if you need understanding about how much work we can do, realistically, right now? Can you name your boundaries and make the request to work less and keep your salary?

What about changing what you’re fundraising FOR right now?

Why should you do that? Because a lot of nonprofit business models are becoming irrelevant.

I talked with a fundraiser last week whose boss is still encouraging her to fundraise for an in-person youth program, even though it’s not safe for kids to be together right now.

I told her you need to push back against your boss and say, “NOPE, I can’t fundraise for this. As a mother, speaking to other mothers, this will not make them give. We all want to keep our kids safe right now. Instead, let’s fundraise for supporting essential workers, which we are also doing.”

A consequence of not facing the truth of COVID-19 is going to be you’ll raise less, unless you change what you’re fundraising for.

Are you reluctantly facing what you are afraid of? Join the rest of us. 

When did you realize you had to start to do things differently?

Was it when you sent a canned email and got no response from it? When you saw colleagues raising tons of money in the last two months, while you were too afraid to ask?

First, it’s normal that you are afraid. It’s normal to be anxious and wondering what the right thing is to do right now.

Knowing that you are afraid gives you choices. What are you going to do differently now? Is it calling your friends or family more? Is it attending more online networking events? Is it making time and space for meditation, breath, prayer, whatever you need to feel more balanced and grounded?

Here’s my theory: We are all on the hero’s journey now, and we’re going into the unknown.

We might even be in the abyss right now, as we try to feel around in the midst of being furloughed, laid off, or unable to afford rent or food. If you are there, I feel you. It is so tough. This is why we agitate for change. This is why we reach out to others and ask for help. This is why we increase our self-compassion that allows us to give and feel compassion for others.

We don’t know what’s at the end of this journey, only that we are not going to end up where we started.

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