Are you changing the world? Or just passing the time?

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.Joel A. Barker

I had a walking meeting with one of my favorite clients the other day (we walk and talk instead of sitting in a coffee shop – it’s great!) and I came across this engraved stone. I was struck by this simple statement and snapped a photo. When I googled it later, I found out it was the middle of the full quote listed above. So much is said in those simple words. I had to break it down to one sentence at a time to process it fully.

Vision without action is merely a dream.
If you have a vision statement, but don’t do anything to achieve it, you’re just dreaming.
Maybe you have thought about starting a new fundraiser or a new program, but the thought of it is as far you have gotten. Just thinking about it or talking about it won’t make it happen.

Action without vision just passes the time.
We have all been there. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught in the status quo and just do what you have done before. You think, “It’s about time to start planning the gala… or sending out the appeal letters.” But before you start planning or start writing, it’s crucial to stop and think about your vision. Your strategy. Otherwise, you’re just passing the time. When we just keep doing what we have always done, we can’t expect for the results to improve.

Vision with action can change the world.
This is what we do. Nonprofits help change the world. When we combine vision AND action, it’s powerful. This is when you start to feel like you’re really making a difference, because you are. Getting your organization to agree on a clear vision statement can make all of your activity more focused. Vision can help you evaluate your activities. Are they just keeping us busy, or are they moving us closer to achieving the vision?

Fall is a great time of year for reflection. What have you done well this year? What lessons have you learned? What can you do better next time? If you have a strategic plan, use it. If you don’t have a strategic plan, create one. Update (or create) your fundraising plan for 2018. All of these things can help you make sure you have both vision and action. After all, we don’t want to just dream or just pass the time. We want to change the world.

Posted in Why Fundraising?

Save the Johnson Amendment

Recently, our current President and certain Legislators have indicated they want to weaken or eliminate the Johnson Amendment. Signed into law in 1954, the Johnson Amendment prevents 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations from endorsing (or opposing) candidates from office, and prevents nonprofit organizations from making significant contributions to elect or defeat a candidate for office. For over 60 years, the Johnson Amendment has enjoyed bipartisan support. And no matter how you feel about our current Administration, you should know how much a change to the Johnson Amendment would impact our fundraising efforts.

Nonprofit organizations are trusted problem solvers in our society. They are expected to be nonpartisan and they often bring people from both sides of the political chasm together to address social concerns. All of this could change if the Johnson Amendment is eliminated. Contributions could dry up if donors fear your organization will spend their donations to support a politician with whom they disagree. Donors could also pressure organizations to support a specific candidate in order to earn their financial support. These difficulties are not far fetched – they are merely the beginning of how nonprofits will be impacted.

Last year, Giving USA reported the highest annual charitable contributions in our history, despite the very contentious presidential election. While millions of dollars were donated to campaigns, millions were also donated to nonprofits willing to address the needs of our communities. I feel very uncertain that nonpartisan nonprofits would continue to enjoy the same level of support if political donors could basically get a tax deduction for their campaign contribution when it was funneled through a nonprofit.

Any weakening or repeal of the Johnson Amendment is bad news for nonprofits everywhere, but good news for politicians. Here’s what you can do:

1. Sign the Community Letter, which has already been signed by over 4,500 organizations.

2. Add your comments to the letter, which Givevoice.org will share on the Hill and in each State.

3. Set up local meetings when your Legislators are home in August and share with them personally how this will impact your organization.

4. Call the offices of your Senators and Representatives in DC and let them know this matters to you. Tell them the Johnson Amendment gives you the ability to focus on your mission without political interference and it needs to stay in place.

Stopping this change won’t be easy, but we’ll be more successful if we stay focused and work together. If you have additional questions or want to coordinate your efforts with those of the Colorado Nonprofit Association and the Association of Fundraising Professionals Colorado Chapter, please contact me.


Photo by Maxwell Young on Unsplash

Posted in Why Fundraising?

How I Fell in Love with Fundraising

Wait, did you read that right? Does someone out there actually LOVE to do fundraising? It’s true. I have loved fundraising since high school, when we first got to know each other. Now we have a long-term committed relationship that gets better every year!

Last week three of my nieces graduated from high school. One of my niece’s friends pulled me aside at a graduation party to ask about my career in non-profit. Madison is considering pursuing a career working with non-profits because of how much she enjoyed helping her student organization with fundraisers and service projects. I could relate!

When I was in high school I joined a student organization called Future Community Leaders of America. We did volunteer service projects and raised money for non-profits. Every year we participated in Walk America to benefit the March of Dimes. We toured a local NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) to see first hand why helping to prevent premature birth was so important. I helped our team to raise over $6,000 (3x more than ever before) by adding a little more planning, a few new ideas, a lot of enthusiasm, and a strong desire to make a difference for those tiny babies. We ended up receiving an award for raising more than any other group of youth at the Walk that year.

I was hooked. The feeling of using my time and talents to “make the world a better place” was intensely satisfying. It took me a few more years to realize that I could make a career out of that feeling and enjoy it all the time instead of only when volunteering. I ended up graduating from Colorado State University with a Human Development degree focused on non-profit management. I went on to complete a master’s certificate in Non-Profit Management and Leadership. In the last 22 years I have been a staff member, board member, committee member, event chairperson, volunteer, donor, sponsor, and now consultant – for dozens of wonderful non-profits.

I’m still hooked on that feeling. I’m still in love with fundraising because of that feeling. I can’t imagine any other career that would be as satisfying to me. I was able to encourage Madison to pursue the opportunity to have that feeling too – as her career.

Do you still get that feeling that your efforts are helping to make the world a better place? What are you passionate about? Do you remember why you started volunteering or fundraising? What is the mission of the organization? What difference are you trying to make? Sometimes when you get burned out or frustrated and want to give up, the best thing you can do is reconnect to this feeling.

Posted in Why Fundraising?