What are we really asking when we ask for donations? This question has arisen as Creating the Future is rethinking everything about how community health and vibrance is supported and sustained.
This is not an academic exercise for us. The question arises as a result of rethinking what philanthropy looks like if it reflects its roots in “Love of Humanity.” As we have vowed to explore what it means to be the future we want to see in our communities, we find ourselves asking, “What do our values look like in action at our donation page?” And to be honest, we have a lot more questions than answers so far…
What We’re Really Saying When We Ask for Donations
There are so many unspoken assumptions embedded in the language of donations. Here are just a few:
Donate to our organization / our work
Assumption: WE the organization are separate from YOU the donor. YOU give to US.
Assumption: When YOU give US money, WE will do the work. After all, WE are the experts.
Your dollars make this work possible
Assumption: WE depend on YOU.
Assumption: More to the point, WE desperately need YOUR money.
Assumption: Without YOUR money, OUR organization will not survive, and none of the work in our community will get done.
The more we unpack the layers, the more we see that the act of asking for donations, no matter how noble it is (and we acknowledge that it is, indeed, noble), is ultimately rooted in a sense of scarcity. And any relationship rooted in scarcity is a power relationship. You have money, we need that money – it’s not for us personally, but to do amazing things for others. But we really need it. Please give it to us?!
Starting a Different Conversation
As we re-think philanthropy to be the true partnership implied in the words “Love of Humanity” – the original meaning of that word – all this is coming up for us. If we know the only way to create the future we all want is for all of us to work together – not YOU helping US, but all of us working together in one big Stone Soup of partnership – what does that look like in practice when it comes to supporting the work to accomplish that? And if the word “donations” carries all the assumptions noted above, is that really an approach that aligns with the world we want?
I don’t want to suggest we have the answers; what I do know is that…
- Individuals will go where systems lead them.
- The situation I’ve described above is simply a system.
To create new systems will require a whole new set of questions – questions that lead to empowering, engaging answers, rooted in abundance and connection.
- How can we walk the talk of being in community with each other at our “donations” page?
- What do those values and assumptions look like in action at that page?
- Would we still call it a “donations” page?
- What do we want to offer at that page? How can we use that page to be of service to each other (vs. “YOU the donor” being of service to US)?
If the Page- Formerly-Known-As-Our-Donations-Page** is about all of us together creating the world we want, how can we link what people expect to find – a donations page – to our own intention to be the future we want to see?
Much to think about. What bubbles up for you?
** Our “donation” page is a work in progress. Here’s what it looks like today. As you look at it, is there anything that stands out? Anything that makes you stop and think? What does it evoke for you? Any and all observations and thoughts are welcome!