When fundraising becomes theatre

We as fundraisers need to be not just thick-skinned when it comes to rejection, but gracious. Demonstrating grace in the face of rejection — instead of scorn — is a stage of maturity that comes along more easily with age, but we are all capable.

A fellow fundraiser was let go from a non-profit where he was Development Director. It was certain that the separation would occur — no one was happy in the relationship. But to air his frustrations and scorn with other fundraising colleagues was very short-sighted. To diss a former employer shows lack of vision in two ways:

1) the employer may be in a position to hire you in the future. With the volatility and movement in the fundraising industry, that direct superior may be in a board seat and in a position to make a crucial hiring decision either for or against you. Wouldn’t you rather have left things on a mutually agreeable note and left room for whatever foibles you identified to be rectified, or circumstances to change? And then,

2) the fundraising industry is small, and to vent about a non-profit is to tarnish it, their staff and their volunteers, all of whom are in a position to gain or lose based on what you put out there as hearsay.

My advice? Step back. Be dispassionate (yes, difficult in the heat of the moment) and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Circumstances account for an awful lot in this world. And depending on the circumstances, you may have done better in the position you were in, and so may have your colleagues, and indeed the organization.

In hindsight? Get a theatre degree. My theatre background has taught me several life lessons:

1) Fear of rejection: face it every day. And brace yourself for the next time, ’cause it’s gonna come.

2) It’s a small world. A wise man once told me, there are only 200 people in theatre. They just run around, dye their hair, change their names, but they’re the same 200 people. The world is small, my friend.

3) Play nice with others, they may be your best friend one day. In the theatre, team effort is the key to getting things done. If everyone didn’t pull together, the play would fall apart. Same goes for fundraising, your organization, and the whole non-profit industry. Everyone needs to be an advocate for giving, not a scorned dissident.

If you enjoyed this post, please be so kind as to share it with colleagues or friends! Thanks.

Share this Post