Note to self: This is not a hat in hand.

I have a friend who has recently stepped into a new role as a fundraiser and is struggling. Lots of calls + lots of effort = no new money for his organization. It’s a tired and challenging equation that if we are not careful can erode our posture of passionate advocates for our respective organizations into anxious and worrisome cold callers, complete with signature white knuckles and high blood pressure. He told me the other day that it ‘feels like I’m going to have to start begging.’

Hopefully, none of us have been where he is at. More likely though, and if we’re honest, we all have.

The fruit of our labors are relationships that generate investments of treasure, time, and talent. In seasons of fiscal and donor management drought there are many dangers, but perhaps the greatest is our losing sight of and trust in the mission. Though giving may decrease at times, and relationships may dwindle, our passion and trust in the work must not waver. We must never resort to philosophical posture of begging, no matter what.

I’m totally guilty of the hat in hand mentality myself. After 7 years in this bizarro world of development and bearing witness to some amazing giving, I am still convicted all too often of how much I think about all the reasons someone has not to give. When I need to get out of this rut and recharge, re-focus, and re-dedicate I lean on guys like Henry Nouwen to give me the juice:

“Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer people an opportunity to participate with us in our mission and vision. Fundraising is precisely the opposite of begging. When we seek to raise funds we are not saying, ‘Please, could you help us out because lately it’s been hard.’ Rather, we are declaring ‘We have a vision that is amazing and exciting! We are inviting you to invest yourself!”

Let it be known that it is a privilege to participate in the organizations we represent! Let it be known that people have the need to give just as much as our organizations have the need to receive! Let it be known that even if giving has stunk for the last few months, our mission is still worth it! Lives are being changed, goals are being met, and we continue to invite you to join us! Phew, that’s better. Now back to work.

How do you stay excited about your organization when donors aren’t responding how you’d like them to? What are sources of encouragement that you lean into when you’re not seeing the results you hope for?


Edward Sumner is currently serving as the Director of Development at Puget Sound Christian Clinic.  He is a Jesus guy, proud Papa, and an advocate for social justice deeply committed to loving and serving the least and the lost in our communities.


One Response to Note to self: This is not a hat in hand.

  1. fergusonsarah says:

    Great blog! Keep it up.. I really love learn from your more!

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