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Dropping the "F" Bomb

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It's that time of year again when those of us in the nonprofit world have to start dropping the "F" bomb. Actually, it's always that time of year. Those of us who beg for loose change have to drop that bomb on an almost daily basis. That "bomb," of course, is the Fundraising Bomb. The real "F" Bomb. We spend our lives "friendraising," doing "development" work, "engaging" donors, and "cultivating" potentials. Wow. That's a whole lot of words for fundraising.

Yes, we need to raise funds to: clean the waters, clean the air, cure the disease, feed the hungry, buy books for the school, etc., etc., etc. These are all noble causes. In fact, our world would be a far lesser place without the astounding work of the nonprofits.

These are the folks who actually ensure man's humanity to man -- and to women. These are the good women and men in our country who are willing to settle for less money than they could to work in sometimes really awful conditions to make sure that we leave no one behind.

And these are the folks who are motivated not by titles or bonuses or company cars but by something far greater: common good. These are the folks who work tirelessly and endlessly for a purpose in which they really believe and care manifestly about. These are the folks for whom the saying: "Hands that help are holier than lips that pray" was uttered.

And yet, so much time is spent on fundraising that much other good work must go undone. Hours spent on phone calls with potential donors who end up not contributing and on trips made to speak with corporate titans who really don't know why you came in the first place can become tiresome really fast. It's not easy being a salesman for a cause that is just one among millions out there. Sometimes it feels as though Willy Loman's plight is more real than theatre.

But our work continues. It must. We've built a society that depends on the kindness of others. And that is how it should be. That is how it must be. We cannot expect our government to do it all. We cannot expect our government to choose which good cause should receive more funding than another. And yet that is what we would do, if we were to solely rely on a government's largesse for the nonprofit world.

Today the role of the non-profit is more urgent and more important than ever. And yet that work is harder and harder than ever. During this recession we have all been affected by an economy that just doesn't seem to be getting much better. Sure, there are bumps in the rolls of those who have found a job -- one month. And then the next those numbers begin to slide backwards. The indignity of unemployment continues to be a stain on the fabric of life here in the USA.

The enormity in the ranks of the growing numbers of those going hungry is real and depressing. The streets in urban America are once again "home" to a growing homeless population. Foreclosures have forced our neighbors to leave behind their dreams. Soldiers and Marines came home from wars wounded emotionally and physically and after hospital discharges were left to fend for themselves.

The nonprofit organizations that support all of these worthy causes are strapped for funds and volunteers and even new ideas to discover just how to raise those funds and recruit those volunteers. There are thousands of not-for-profit organizations in America - 99.9% of them are worthy of our support and our resources. So, how then do we choose? Do we really have to choose one cause over another? And if we do, does this mean that another cause is going to go without?

I work in the anti-hunger world. I also work in the "aging network" world. The programs that comprise the Meals On Wheels family work on behalf of ending senior hunger in America. This network of over 5,000 Senior Nutrition Programs works on a daily basis to provide in excess of one million meals to seniors. And yet, our research tells us that we are in need of at least two million more meals a day to meet the unmet senior need.

There's that "F" word again. We need to raise the money to do just that -- feed hungry seniors. And yet, we "compete" for funds with our friends who raise money to feed children; furnish food for food banks; provide transportation services to seniors; provide housing for seniors; provide food for women, infant and children; etc. You get my point. We are all in the business of having to drop the "F" bomb all the time.

My wish, and I suppose all of our wishes, would be that these problems didn't exist. But they do. And the nonprofit sector is a lifeline and a savior to millions of Americans who need just a little bit of help. But as long as there is want, there will be the need to raise money.

We ask and we ask and we ask and we receive, but sometimes not quite enough. Yet we are resolved not to stop in our quest to raise the money to do what we do best -- provide the helping hand to our fellow Americans.

As we pass from one season to another, from the season of giving (the holiday season) to the season of sunshine, let us remember that there is no holiday from hunger or homelessness or unemployment. And so, when an organization fills your inbox or your mailbox with those pleas for assistance, don't get mad. The "F" bomb that we are dropping is meant to help, not be offensive. It is meant to offer compassion, shelter, a cure, sustenance, safety, and so much more.

For the millions of your fellow Americans who count on you, it's that season again -- the season of Yes We Will Remember You. Just open the email or the letter and read it. Let us tell you our story and then you decide.