Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to introduce the turkey-ideas of nonprofit development; ideas frequently held by small organizations about raising money that could be considered as “bird-brained.”

When I started helping nonprofits with fundraising strategies I was surprised at how many became uncomfortable when the topic of raising money was mentioned. After introducing the subject I felt that some social pleasantry had been violated; like an obnoxious relative who talks about a sensitive subject during the Thanksgiving feast. It was obvious that just asking about money had struck a raw nerve. I understood the frustration but needed to know more about the source of their angst.

When I politely inquired about why the subject of fundraising was viewed negatively these same three reasons appeared across multiple organizations:

  • Money was seen as contrary to the nonprofit’s mission – they are, after all, a nonprofit organization
  • Making money was viewed as a shameful act
  • Money reflected everything that is wrong with society

I always felt these fear-of-money reasons were turkeys, ideas incongruous with the hard work these organizations were attempting to accomplish. So I created a more profitable interpretation of these concerns. Here they are:

  • Money is not contrary to an organization’s mission, rather it is the lifeblood that supports programs, public engagement activities, and helps to communicate the nonprofit’s important mission. Money is needed for the success of an organization.
  • Making money is not shameful; money is neither good or bad, how it is used should be the focus. What is shameful is not allowing an organization’s mission to thrive.
  • Money is not reflective of everything that is wrong with society. Yes, greed and financial inequality exist in society, but these issues are distractions in the conversation. Rather, focus on how your organization views money – see money as potential energy. Then ask, how can this energy be harnessed?

One final thought: we have all heard that money does not grow on trees. True. Money is not easy to come by because it must be earned with patience even creativity – to think otherwise would be a turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!

Image: Missouri State Archives

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