It is not uncommon for me to encounter individuals who have a negative reaction to fundraising. I have spent much of my life in workshops or seminars with individuals recovering from what they imagined to be begging or soliciting. The images of bad events, the fear of going door to door, or the memories of a less than joy filled gift linger for many. Yet, it does not have to be that way.
At a recent Girls Inc. event, I had the pleasure of joining Dr. Leah Gunning-Francis and Rev. Jean Smith for an opportunity to celebrate honoree Anita Harden. In the local Indianapolis community, you might consider this a triple celebration of excellence. All tied to the theological education, pursuit of excellence and leadership of Christian Theological Seminary, it was both a celebration and an education opportunity. The excellence, however, didn't stop here. I encountered a current CTS student, Hazel Owens, who eagerly shared her interest in an upcoming international travel seminar celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Her passion for helping girls grow was almost matched by the light that flickered when she spoke of this opportunity.
The once in a lifetime Re-Formation tour is hosted by Dr. Gunning Francis, Dr. Scott Seay and Dr. Rob Saler, and includes sites that were significant in Luther’s journey, both in Germany and Rome. The second segment of the tour includes an incredible linkage to Martin Luther King Jr., where Atlanta and Selma become new learning laboratories. As with all good things, however, you have to raise the financial resources to participate in the vision, before the vision can be realized.
I came to learn that Hazel has been both an employee and volunteer for Girls Inc., and she cares deeply about their mission to empower girls. When you talk to her you can hear Smart, Strong and Bold themes in every example, story and reflection. Yet, the idea of fundraising seemed like a weight of uncomfortable tasks when we first spoke. I immediately chimed in, "Fundraising is all about relationships. This is nothing for you to be scared of - you are offering people the opportunity to take a journey with you. Your values and your passion are worthy of investment." The difference here, is that Hazel responded, "Thank you, I needed that." Most people simple glaze over and believe you are immune to the challenges because of your chosen profession. I loved her response.
A few weeks later she came by my office and I was reminded why I love the work that we do in the field of development. Quality fundraising and a strong understanding of the intersection of faith and giving can help people release their fears. We do not beg. We offer opportunities to walk together. Money will always follow mission, vision and values - and there is nothing to apologize for when you operate as your authentic self. Doing your very best allows you to translate the no's as a misalignment, not a personal rejection. In the faith community, it also compels us to understand that we are stewards of resources afforded to us for a greater purpose. 100% of what we have belongs to God anyway. Okay, I'll save that exit ramp and my work in progress philosophies about why we miss the mark on teaching stewardship and generosity for a later post. We don't have to apologize for fundraising when we have a worthy cause.
The first meeting with Hazel yielded clarity, conviction and connectivity. She's clear about her mission and she has developed a fabulous plan to fund her educational experience. She did not let fear dictate her next steps. Churches and educational institutions alike should embrace this same boldness. As a result of her determination, the generosity of Christian Theological Seminary will be matched by her ingenuity and faithful efforts. She demonstrated (in less than 60 minutes) her conviction with power and passion. If we would learn to embrace raising resources with the same energy as we embrace other ministry initiatives, we would all be better off. Lastly, we connected on so many levels beyond this education experience. I was quickly able to learn that the trip was part of a broader plan to answer her calling and live out her ministry gifts for the benefit of others. From Women's Ministry to Bible Study, young adult ministry to teaching across greater Indianapolis, Hazel is building something special. The efforts of her July - October plan are promising.
Hazel's commitment to style and helping to restore those struggling from self-doubt and imperfection resonated with my own calling. It probably didn't hurt that she shares a name with my philanthropic hero, Hazel A. Taylor. There is power in the name of Jesus. There is power in (insert your name here) too! Her BOLD embrace of fundraising, and systematic efforts to connect diverse audiences, activities, opportunities and giving levels made my heart sing. If you want to learn more about her or the trip, follow the links below. If you are in the field of development, raise your hand in celebration with me. Some things can be taught. Fundraising with excellence must be both taught and caught. One more minister of the gospel has had an ah-ha moment to shed light on the Truth About Fundraising. When you have a vision and a calling, anything is possible.