Do you love your donors enough? Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but are you making your donors feel like your Valentine every day of the year? How about your volunteers—your donors of time? Maybe you love your donors a whole lot. But do you show them? Do you tell them over and over? Do you describe their impact? Do you make your donors the heroes? Do your donors feel your love? Do your donors always know and forever remember that you love them?
In the fall of 2012, the Association of Fundraising Professionals Toronto Congress did an amazing “fundraising theatre production” on the closing day of the conference. It was produced by Tony Elischer and directed by Jon Duschinsky and it starred presenters from all over the world. The 2012 Fundraising Theatre production featured every letter of the alphabet with video, PowerPoint, and presenter commentary. For instance, the audience found that A = affinity, C = collaboration, D = digital and donations, E = emotions, I = innovation, J = joy, M = money, P = philanthropy and passion, R = relationship, T = thank you and V = vision.
I presented the letter L, as in L = love. Here’s what I talked about and here’s what happened on the screen. I walked onstage with a YouTube video, “SOS Children’s Villages,” playing. The kids in the video were singing “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles. And here’s what I said:
“What is love? Affection. Attachment. Kindness. Compassion. [Showing on-screen was a wonderful slide of the word ‘love’ in 28 different languages.] There are different kinds of love. Romantic love. Sexual love. Love of family. There’s the love that transcends self and family. Confucianism emphasizes love as actions and duty. Islam talks about love as universal brotherhood. Hinduism talks about Karuna, the love that means compassion and mercy. And all of us in this room talk about philanthropy, the love of humankind, from the Greek.
Philanthropy is the love that extends beyond one’s self and one’s intimates. The love that transforms communities. The love that empowers. And, love translated into activism, a social movement like ending Apartheid, women’s rights, and peace. There are those people who help unite us all because of their actions of love. Donors of time and money. Gifts given, whether large or small. [And on the screen behind me were pictures of Nobel Peace Prize winners.]
We can all name famous philanthropists…well known in our communities and countries. For example, Canadians Stephen Lewis and Margot Franssen. But how about those who are not famous? The people next to you in this room right now. Your donors back home.”
I asked people to call out names – and audience members named them then and there. And then, I came to the end. I said: “The Beatles tell us that ‘all we need is love.’ And we have it. One of my favorite movies, Love Actually, reminds us that love is all around.” And as I turned and walked off stage, the opening clip from Love Actually played on screen. The opening sequence takes place at the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. It depicts people hugging each other, people smiling and laughing. And then we hear the voiceover from Hugh Grant:
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion says that we live in a world of hatred and greed. But I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy. But it’s always there… If you look for it, you’ll see that love is, actually all around.”
It was good that I was assigned L = Love for the fundraising theatre. When I think of the work that you and I do, I always remember that the word “philanthropy” comes from the Greek, meaning “love of human kind.” And my favorite definition of philanthropy is voluntary action for the common good.
Yes, Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but let’s remember that all we need is love. And, yes, love is actually all around us. Donors give. Donors care. Donors want to have an impact and make a difference. That is a form of love.
Those of us who work for and in nonprofits must love our donors and show that love. It’s our job to tell donors they are heroes. The work of fund development – the work of everyone in a donor-centered organization – is to demonstrate love.
Maybe this sounds corny. And those of you who read my blog know how frustrated and angry and sad I get about the state of the world. But the fundraising theater also did Z = Zeitgeist, the “spirit of the age.” As Tony Elischer explains it, “the future will not be created by a few leaders or celebrities, but by all of us together.” At that moment, with the Z on the screen, we celebrated the work that we do, the actions of all of us as fundraisers. You and I can shape the future. If not you and I, who?