Monday, February 10, 2014

Asking for Money

A lot of people are uncomfortable asking for money. I used to be one of them.

Then, back in 1996, we had an experienced fundraiser attend an FIC Board meeting and he enlightened me to the common need for nonprofits to get over it. That began a process that took me a couple years, at the end of which I could look people in the eye and ask them to write a check in support of the Fellowship.

In the world of community, there's a fair amount of uneasiness with money in and of itself. This shows up in a variety of ways:
o  A commitment to sharing (reducing what you need to own)
o  A commitment to voluntary simplicity (making do with less)
o  A tendency to ask for less compensation than our contributions are worth (asking for more shows a lack of spiritual development)
o  Hesitation to share information about what one earns or one's net assets (polite people don't do that)

In short, many communitarians are motivated to get as much distance as possible between themselves and the rootstock of all evil.

Growing up with an entrepreneurial father, I had evidence at an early age about what money could buy, and how that didn't necessarily include happiness. Moving purposefully away from that capitalist model, it took me 25 years as an adult to come to grips with the possibility of embracing my entrepreneurial heritage without selling my soul. It just required the discipline to make sure that how I made money and what I did with it were aligned with my values. 

When it came to development—identifying donors in support of worthy causes—I came to appreciate that value-centered fundraising was not about money so much as it was about relationships, and matching the donor's financial capacity with the beneficiary's energy, time, and reputation to realize a common vision. It turns out that there a good number of people who care about what's happening in the world, and are happy to see some portion of their discretionary dollars being used in support of efforts they don't have time to do themselves. 

The art is in making sure that you're not deciding what to do based on what can be funded, and that you're sensitively matching both the size and the purpose of the request with the funder's interests. Good fundraising is not about charity; it's about a dynamic partnership.

But this won't go over well if you haven't first done personal work around your relationship to money—as squeamishness on your part will change the energy of the exchange. This is a particular challenge in intentional community, where ease with money tends to be viewed with the same jaundiced eye as power mongering, kicking cats, driving an SUV, or living in a McMansion.

The good news is that it can be done—which is a damn good thing given how far we need to go in creating cooperative alternatives in a world that's going to hell in a competitive handbasket. It's not so easy financing one's dreams on downwardly mobile budgets and we need those progressive friends with hearts of gold and gold in the bank to be partnering with us to create a brighter future.

• • •
So what have I been involved in lately that's worthy of financial support? Glad you asked.

My wife, Ma'ikwe, is the director of Ecovillage Education US and we're running an Indiegogo campaign to raise money in support of scholarships and educational materials for this summer's 37-day immersion course. The campaign runs for 10 more days, and we have an anonymous donor who's willing to provide a 10% match (he'll give an additional $10 for every $100 donated). Click here if you're inspired to be one of those folks with a heart of gold.

FIC is just on the verge of completing a massive overhaul of our website. In addition to markedly faster loading and more reliable checkout, we'll be offering a tantalizing array of new digital products, including subscriptions to Communities magazine, all back issues available as downloadable PDFs, and new collections of our best articles, organized by theme. We spent down our cash reserves to finance these improvements; now we need to recoup the money through increased traffic and donations. If you like what we're doing, you can let us know by making an online donation here.

See. That wasn't so hard.

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