Nonprofit Periscope

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Posts Tagged ‘development

One-off or a way of life?

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Small donors have a lot to feel good about right now.  During the 2008 election cycle, our current president benefited from a reinvigorated wave of small donations.  In the throes of a recession, small donors are hailed as the great untapped potential of American giving.  Donor literature swirls anew with phrases like “every little bit helps!” and “Your dollar makes a difference!”

And in the aftermath of disaster in Haiti, small donors attained new celebrity in the news for collectively contributing millions to relief efforts in $5 and $10 increments via text message.  There has never been a better time to be a small donor.

While this is remarkable, there’s a danger in over-celebrating gifts that are small, one-time, and reactive.  They’re vital but not enough.  People, animals, and the environment suffer even in the absence of earthquakes, hurricanes, wars, and other disasters.

The blogosphere, including the Nonprofit Millennial Bloggers Alliance, is doing an admirable job of a balancing act: on one hand, recognizing the need for and impact of small donations (and by small, I’m talking $5 and $10 a pop, which may be considered “ultra-small” by many fundraisers); on the other, reiterating the need for long-term assistance and for awareness of underlying aggravators such as racism.  The American Red Cross and other nonprofits are pushing the message as well, at least as far as I’ve seen in their acknowledgment emails for the small gifts I made in the past week.  (Online, not by text, and for general operating funds, since the Red Cross and other agencies do more than just disaster relief.)

As obvious as this message of sustained giving may seem, to stick in the minds of most (actual and would-be) donors, it must overcome a formidable foe: the news cycle.  In a matter of days or weeks, another story will take over the airwaves and column inches, and news consumers will begin to forget about Haiti again.  Many of us do what we can when reminded, but reminders can be scarce, easily ignored, or even unwelcome.  As a result, giving is often ad hoc, not institutionalized.  The holidays show us that much every year.

So on a day reserved for remembering a man who, among many things, said “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”, use the momentum of mobilization around Haiti’s earthquake relief as an opportunity to assess and institutionalize your giving.

  • Do you only give after a disaster?
  • Do you only give when asked?
  • How could you set up monthly donations, weekly volunteering, regular clothing or food drives, etc. to help others year-round?

Texting $10 should be the beginning, not the end.

Written by eclawson

January 18, 2010 at 3:28 PM

Gettin’ around

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It’s no secret–I’m a fundraiser at heart, and I’m not shy about insisting that it’s the best nonprofit career out there. Read more about it in my guest post for Idealist’s Nonprofit Career Month blog.

Written by eclawson

September 30, 2009 at 4:07 PM

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