By Kathryn LeBrasseur, Alexandria, MN
I have been involved with fundraising most of my life. Had a lot of fun and fellowship doing it too. The “stay at home” program has given me lots of time to reflect on the changes brought on by technological development and the pandemic. Due to my background, I have found it interesting and I have truly decided that the changes are drastic.
I will have to admit that some of them are inspiring and some of them concern me. I realize my experience is outdated and I have some qualms about that. In my day, it was really quite simple. We decided on a goal and organized a group of others also interested in filling that need. An event was planned such as a special dinner or to feature objects to sell like cookies or popcorn or crafts. Sometimes for a major project where larger sums required greater support, a grant application was made. Basically, both the need/goal and the special event to raise the funds were local and the work was done by those that would benefit. Just like in all those Hallmark movies we’ve been watching these last few months.
Today’s efforts are far more involved. Inflation makes the stakes greater and the available funds of many donors less. So, an event is planned to host the project and then the local businesses are recruited to supply the donated items or to sponsor the cause financially. Technology is needed to promote and costs need to be included. The sums needed are large. Those involved help set up the site of the event and local business provide the heart of it all. It truly costs to be a local business! But it is local and it works!
The pandemic and time to reflect, have presented two new issues for me in the fundraising area. The first is being inspired by the creativity of so many local non-profits! Technology is used in creative ways to put forth their annual events virtually. While doing this, they continue using the traditional to continue their meaningful programs going.
The second issue is not inspiring. It is that large and meaningful programs are spending great sums of money to get me to donate whatever I am willing to spare. This creates my quandary. To do this, they are often trying to entice me by sending me notepads, address labels, beautiful greeting cards, stockings, coasters, T-shirts, checks! (I have a large stack of checks made out to me personally ranging from $1.15 to $2.50. I am almost tempted to cash one and see what would happen.)
I am left with the feeling that they don’t need my money! I also feel guilt about using the gifts since I have never had any connection with most of the organizations sending them and can’t afford to support their causes in addition to the ones I do believe in. They must buy mailing lists. I receive about seven requests in the mail a day. If I do send something to a cause I have supported in the past, they send me a thank you with a request to donate again. Again, I receive brochures and gifts. It is a new approach and I can’t see the benefit other than establishing their identity.
My emails are filled with requests to donate to politicians so that they can spend millions on ads running down the opposition and requesting my help in paying for the media time. Seems like the USPS and the networks are the only ones that could benefit from the efforts.
So, after much thought and more time than the issue probably deserves, I have resolved this issue for myself. My resolution is in the way I give. I will support my local businesses as they carry a heavy load in supporting each program by giving items to sell or sponsorship. I am so impressed with the wonderful new programs being created locally and the continued efforts of local nonprofits that I know whatever I can give will make a difference.
As to the large and national causes that are able to support extremely expensive campaigns where I believe in the purpose but don’t feel they need the kind of money I can contribute if they can spend so much to get it, I will give my money directly to the local chapters so that they have the funds to participate in the larger cause. Believe me they do have expenses in accomplishing that and what they do benefits our community! I will use or donate the items received.
They tell us to buy local. I have decided to give local!
Kathryn LeBrasseur is a former executive director of the Alexandria Senior Center and has been involved in a variety of community organizations, many focusing on senior issues. “In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.