Nonprofit Fundraising: The Big Lie. I've told it, and I am sorry

You’ve heard the big lie. I heard the big lie. Heck, I’ve even told the big lie. And I realized, it is a lie…a story we told ourselves long ago that we believe today. A story we don’t challenge because we can’t see another way. I am sorry I bought into this myth.

There are only so many dollars available for philanthropy and we need to get the biggest slice possible.

I have propagated the story. I have said it to potential clients. You may have heard it too. Something like this, “As marketing and fundraising consultant, I can tell you I will help you get the most from limited dollars.” I was operating out of scarcity and made you feel like you need to operate that way too. I didn’t realize it was a story. Now I do.

I know of no other industry that has a cap on its growth. Does Amazon say, “There’s only so much money to be made online shopping!” Or does the oil industry say, “Well hey, we better grab what we can, there are only so many wells to drill.”

This has caused harm in our community. It pits us against each other in what we believe is a limited pie and we need to wrestle each crumb from each slice from each other. Because of this, we operate in fear and isolation. We collaborate, begrudgingly, because it is what funders want. We keep our leads close and our donor lists closer. Working solo and scraping by alone hurts us. It is lonely, isolating and a waste of resources. 

We have been operating outside the lie without acknowledging it. Let’s see how:

Capital and endowment campaigns
We ask donors to go deep into a commitment into the future of our organization. They meet the need.

National natural disasters
Natural disasters or major crisis spur us to give.

Organizational crisis
A fire, an outbreak, an unforeseen crisis. Our donors are there for us. When Stray Rescue had its distemper outbreak, the donors gave more to help with the recovery. 

Personal fundraising
Individuals raise money for causes they believe in or for ailing friends or family. Their friends and family step up.

It is easy to say there is only so much, so we can justify our fear of asking for money. “They will never say yes, because everyone asked them.” “I am sure they already donated enough.” “We can’t compete with those bigger organizations.” These stories perpetuate the Big Lie. Stories allow us to create rejection in the idea of asking because we fear actual rejection. 

What if we all had enough pie?

What if there lots of pies and we all got as many slices as we needed. Lots of wonderful pies for everyone. Ok it is a week before Thanksgiving, so I have Pie Brain.

I know believe in and operate my business and my life living in abundance. There is enough for all us all to thrive. Instead of fear and scarcity, I live in grace and abundance. I want you to do this as well because it is an amazing place to be.

What if:

  • We believed in abundance. What if we operated with confidence in the future and in our own power. What if we worked together, without fear, sharing our collective support, resources and intelligence to create a better community. 

  • We referred potential donors to other agencies, knowing they were the better fit? Knowing those agencies would do the same, and knowing our donors would respect us all more for really listening and meeting their needs.

  • We didn’t feel in competition, we felt connection. We were as invested in our work succeeding as others, knowing it lifts our collective community and humanity?

  • We saw opportunities as limitless? What if we believed that all things are achievable with the right strategy?

  • We became leaders in embracing abundance and fundraising with grace and ease?

Let’s stop telling the big lie and start believing that there is enough out there for us all to thrive, and together we can create so much more than we could alone. This Thanksgiving, I am wishing you confidence, abundance, and most of all, some really delicious pie.





Maryanne Dersch