In the last months, I have heard the phrase “challenging times” being used in a variety of contexts. So, I asked myself in what ways are these “challenging times” for fundraisers. In order to add credence to anything I might say, I thought I should begin by defining just what the word “challenge” or “challenging” means.
A few weeks ago, Kim Bhasin and Lance Lambert did a news piece for Bloomberg entitled “The Long, Hard, Unprecedented Fall of Sears.” In 1989, Sears Roebuck & Company was the largest retailer in the United States. The tallest building in Chicago, and at one time, the tallest building in the world bore the company’s name. Once the second-largest retailer in America, K-Mart filed for bankruptcy in 2002 and in 2005 K-Mart and Sears merged to become the Sears Holding Corporation, which is now owned by billionaire Eddie S. Lampert and his company, ESL. According to the article, since the merger Lampert has dismantled the company and in January of this year the company was forced to sell their famous tool brand Craftsman to Stanley Black & Decker.
At one time, Sears led innovation in retail with the introduction of their catalog. Sears empowered consumers with real choices to buy good products at reasonable prices no matter where the customer lived. Sears actually improved living standards, helped lower the cost of living for most Americans and strengthened the buying power of the American middle class.
While Sears still talks bravely about its future and plans to integrate in-store, online and mobile shopping, this decline seems unparalleled in business history.
Congress is currently addressing a number of critical issues which will impact the charitable community. Changes in funding will in many cases, place greater responsibilities on the charitable sector to find additional resources where budget cuts will impact numerous programs. Concerns about healthcare reform are paramount for all of us. Tax reform is another area of similar concern for all charities.
As fundraisers and human beings, all of us understand the importance of belonging. It is about being part of something. In our case, it is about engaging others in our mission, our causes, our ministries. It is about inviting others to feel “one with.” It is about inclusion, not exclusiveness. It is part of the human condition.
Peter Block, in his book, Community: The Structure of Belonging (Barrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 2009) offers several definitions of belonging. The first is “to be related, to be part of something.” The second definition deals with ownership where one “co-owns” the community to which one chooses to affiliate. In the third, he describes it as “a longing to be.” Here he talks about a capacity for deeper meaning and purpose. (p.xii)
Topics: Donor Relationships
On January 20, 2017, the United States experienced a transition in leadership as Barack Obama completed his second term as President of the United States and Donald Trump took the oath of office as our forty-fifth president. The transition process began when the two men met at the White House on November 10, 2016, and even though the actual transfer of leadership has happened, the transition will continue for some time.
The reality is that transition takes lots of time, energy, and patience, and ironically, it is often steeped in tradition. The Presidential Inauguration was a perfect example of an entire day carefully orchestrated but almost entirely prescribed by tradition. This is because change doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Transition is informed by the past, happens in the context of the present, and impacts the future. Transition challenges us to recognize that a decision has been made, a direction has been set, and the “point of no return” has been reached. Thus, a new context and framework has been created.