Too much stuff?

This is certainly the time of year for accumulating more “stuff,” isn’t it. It’s even become downright patriotic to go out and shop.

When my kids asked this year -“what do you want for Christmas?” – I truly didn’t want one more thing that fell into the “stuff” category.  Just having them home together, sharing conversation over lovely dinners and time together, that is enough to make me extremely happy.

I wish I could say I’m immune to stuff, but I can’t. I did my share of Christmas shopping, tempered by the desire to shop local and buy things people would ordinarily consume, like foodstuffs. I didn’t always succeed.

Tuesday afternoon, I had a short discussion about the difference between a recruiting an event sponsor and recruiting a philanthropic donor. I was making the point that the sponsorship exchange weighs heavily onto the side of tangible benefits–  like size of logo, number of impressions, size of audience. Relationships matter, absolutely, but the tangible benefits the sponsors receive usually close the sale.

Stuff again.

This morning I went to the memorial service for a fundraising colleague of mine Steve Sorin. The rabbi spoke of Steve’s enthusiasm for life, his love of family and music, and his belief in his work. And how much the measure of a life isn’t about the stuff that we accumulate, but of the memories we leave, the impact we have on each other and the world around us.

As I sat to write, I couldn’t help thinking about so many conversations I’ve had with volunteer fundraisers or with fundraisers new to the profession. How often they’ve expressed the need to have stuff to give before they could possibly interact with a potential donor. Stuff like a beautiful printed brochure or a tangible reward for giving. The idea that a donor would give without getting personal stuff back was just an incomprehensible concept.

Sadly, too often in fundraising the desire to give or get stuff gets in the way of us having deep conversations with donors about change, about possibility, about human need and personal aspirations. About the “love of humankind” that is at the root core of philanthropy.

We really don’t need as much stuff as we have. Not in our lives, and not in our interactions with our donors.

(If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard).

4 responses to Too much stuff?

  1. Lori L. Jacobwith

    Gayle, As always, I enjoy your thought provoking posts. I, too, struggle with the “stuff” craze this time of year.

    Here’s a quick story that warmed my heart and reminded me that donors don’t need the “stuff” to be engaged and respond. On Wednesday morning, Dec. 22, I received a very animated phone call from a coaching client and great guy, we’ll call him Dennis. He wanted me to know that he’d taken my advice and was sharing with everyone that their organization serving homeless teens is not at full capacity, only because they lack the resources.

    Dennis is new in his position, but truly believes in the impact his organization is making. He shared with a major community foundation his frustration of not being at full capacity when there are so many youth needing a place to sleep during our snowy December. Dennis shared compelling stories of real kids and he shared the funding gap, the actual dollar amount he needs to help more teens.

    At the end of the in-person meeting, the foundation representative asked that Dennis send a short email outlining what he had shared and by the end of the day a confirmation of approval of a $75,000 gift was received. No fancy brochure or long, tedious case statement. Just the true impact and funding facts shared in a compelling, heart felt way. A big YES to give money and no “stuff” was exchanged.

  2. Sherry Truhlar

    Gayle, your post along with Lori’s story reminds me that it is often the energy and passion of the nonprofit’s staff that make the difference. It isn’t the stuff, it is the storytelling.

Leave a reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.