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By Sally Torbey

Finding the fun in fundraising

Uploaded: Mar 13, 2014

Up until a few weeks ago, I have assiduously avoided fundraising. With my medical background, I felt I could be more useful lice checking at school, instructing scouts on the Heimlich maneuver, and providing first aid on a camping trip. But I surprised myself by recently agreeing to serve on a capital campaign committee for an organization for which I care deeply.

Volunteerism is vital to our community. The commitment to a greater common good is essential to our high performing schools, enriching extracurricular activities programs, religious life, and environment and service programs. Volunteering makes our community the vibrant place we choose to live.

But there are so many worthwhile ways to contribute time and energy, sometimes I have found myself overwhelmed, racing from one activity to the next. Recently, I have tried to be more thoughtfully deliberate as I choose in which opportunities to participate. I reflect on whether the cause is truly compelling to me. Does this fit my passions, my interests and my skill set? Am I saying yes because I enthusiastically embrace this cause or am I acquiescing to guilt, or wanting to please or impress others? Does the commitment permit me to meet my other obligations?

Thoughtful deliberation is important because volunteering with reluctance or resentment diminishes the effectiveness of the work accomplished.

This is the first time fundraising has made it past thoughtful deliberation. And even so, in the initial weeks of the campaign I wondered whether I had made the right choice. As fundraising goes, this is probably as easy as it gets. A feasibility study showed widespread support for the project and the goal was realistic and attainable. And yet, I felt like folks were avoiding eye contact with me now that I was going to be asking them for a financial contribution! I also unexpectedly encountered folks who declined to participate and I was devastated, taking the refusals as an indication of my inadequacies as a fundraiser.

Those both wiser and more experienced in these matters advised me to rethink what makes a campaign successful. I was urged to focus on bringing folks together around a shared vision and reframe the process as an opportunity for me to connect again with old friends, make new friends, and excite folks about a common interest and passion. As is so often the case, it is the process that is most important, not the product. A process that engages folks, giving them a sense of being part of something bigger, and with a shared purpose, will ultimately be the most productive and successful for the community. Focusing on the community building aspect of fundraising has also made this process more meaningful and enjoyable for me!