Make a difference today! Reflections of a fundraiser by Laurel Hoffmann
Tell me what I'm supposed to do.
I work in communications for a social justice non-profit. And the hard truth is that we need money, and emotional (read: manipulative) fundraising letters work. they effectively siphon money out of the wallets of well-intentioned people who somehow aren't jaded by the non-profit appeal mechanism.
I'm proud of the work we do. Our programs are designed to help those living in poverty remain housed. We serve an evening meal, provide clothes and hygiene items, as well as run a food depot, all to increase the chances of people having enough money to pay their rent. For us, success is being able to invest in the lives of the people we work with. As cliche'd as it may sound, we focus on the person, not the problem. What we do best is create a place where people can belong, which in turn build community, which ultimately allows for hope to grow. We believe that what appears on the outside as an inefficient system is in truth the all-powerful efficiency of God's love at work. Donations make all this possible - they contribute to feeding, housing and clothing the poor, as well as paying the below-industry wages of our socially justice minded employees.
While we celebrate what we are able to do, we also ache that we force our community to stand in line for food and clothes and coffee and yet again for a place to sit and visit. We ache that we are a part of the machinery that takes away their choices by deciding for them what they can eat , when they can get clothes and how often they can withdraw from our food depot. We ache that we can't be all inclusive, even though we know that God is. And we ache that we have to daily turn people away.
So we write letters that move people to give more so we can do more. We look for photo opportunities. We plead with you, the moneyed, to have compassion for the people we work with daily. I call donors friends - "Without the continued support of friends like you..." - even though, in most cases we've never met. Our literature creates a sense of urgency; it says, "Make a difference... Today!" and "Donate Now!" It uses exclamation marks. I understand that perceived urgency motivates people; I know it motivates me. I just don't like the feeling of being played. Or that I'm playing with someone else's emotions. But the needs we see everyday are, indeed, urgent. We need the money. So tell me, what am I supposed to do?
Laurel Hoffmann works at a faith-based, inner-city organization in Edmonton, Alberta.