OVERVIEW OF TRAINING
Life Together’s December Third Friday Spiritual Activism training focused on doing the inner and outer work necessary to become an effective and spiritually grounded fundraiser. The purpose of the training was not only to help Fellows launch their own fundraising efforts for Life Together (each have a $500 goal for May 2015). It was also meant to deepen their skills as lifelong activists and ministers who will very likely need to ask for financial support over and over again. In terms of the inner work involved, the training entailed looking at our received ideas about money, considering our potential blocks and misgivings about fundraising, and how to work through such blocks and misgivings. Regarding the outer work, we learned how to make a fundraising ask and create a concrete plan. We also learned about Life Together's funding model and how it informs Fellows' fundraising efforts on behalf of Life Together.
In our community check-in groups, we reflected on our early memories related to money in order to discover any beliefs or values about money we may be carrying with us. We acknowledged that money can be messy, and we highlighted that injustice knows how to direct the flow of money, and justice needs to learn how to do the same.
During the morning, Lynd Matt--Director of Development for the Episcopal Diocese--shared his experiences as a professional fundraiser and offered the following takeaways:
We all have "baggage" related to money, i.e., different relationships and attitudes, all of which are important. At the same time, it can be helpful to put that baggage aside while we're actually talking to someone face to face (or over the phone), preparing to make a specific ask.
It is crucial to be authentic when telling our story; this is what makes the emotional connection that can influence someone to give earnestly.
Asking for a specific amount is key to effective fundraising, and the one being asked needs to be given a real chance to consider the ask.
We are asking for support and accompaniment, so there is no need to be apologetic when asking for money.
In the afternoon, Emma's Fellow Hannah McMeekin walked us through a brief overview of the organization's funding structure. Providing a high degree of organizational transparency in this way was intended to help build trust among Fellows and spur on the collective action necessary to sustain the mission and work of Life Together.
Last but certainly not least, Rebecca Behizadeh facilitated a discussion about our past experiences with fundraising, what worked, how we felt about it, and where we are heading. She also led Fellows in thinking concretely about individuals and groups who may be interested in supporting our fundraising efforts.
RELATIONSHIP TO LEADERSHIP
Fund-raising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission. Fund-raising 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 through the resources that God has given you—your energy, your prayers, and your money—in this work to which God has called us.” Our invitation is clear and confident because we trust that our vision and mission are like “trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither” (Ps. 1:3). - Henri Nouwen, The Spirituality of Fund-raising (Upper Room Ministries, 2004)
The words above by Henri Nouwen reflect Life Together’s approach to fundraising as a form of spiritual leadership. As leaders engaged in the work of contemplative, communal, and prophetic transformation, Life Together Fellows and staff, like Nouwen, understand fundraising as primarily relational work centered on inviting people to participate in furthering our mission and aims as a social justice organization. This requires the confidence and clarity of vision that we as leaders need if we truly want to make an impact in our world.