I am regularly reminded of a brief talk that our former pastor gave when someone new joined our church in Atlanta. This talk, directed ostensibly to the new member, was really a not-so-subtle reminder to the entire congregation about the importance of supporting the church–the importance of giving.
After he spoke of all of the activities that one could participate in, and all of the important missions that the church undertook, he would talk about the role of congregational giving in making all of these things possible. He would use this great phrase…”it’s not about having to give, it’s about getting to give.” In other words, giving was an opportunity, and members, new and old, were being afforded this opportunity on a regular basis.
I think this is a terrific definition of philanthropy. The donors and prospects with whom we work are given an opportunity to contribute–to support the important activities of our organization, school or church. It seems to me that our job as fundraisers is to be sure that they understand just what those opportunities are; to be sure that they are as well educated about our organization, our finances and the challenges that our organization faces as possible.
Having put a complete version of our organizational story in front of our prospects, we then provide them with the opportunity to give–they get to make the giving decision. That, my friends, is what philanthropy is all about.