The curious case of money and impact

By Janine Ayoub.

In this article, our Co-founder and lead fundraiser Janine, shares her views about the relation between the ideals of change-makers seeking impact and the need for funding. We hope you enjoy this article; we would be grateful if you tell us what you think. Please follow and share with your friends…

The dynamics within nonprofits are quite peculiar, aren’t they? Those who pour their hearts into meaningful causes often find it uncomfortable to ask for money. More often than not, people who are committed to social or environmental causes struggle when it comes to seeking financial support. It could be because change-makers, driven by their ideals, might fear that delving into the world of money, economics, and power might corrupt their noble intentions. In many ways, these are justified apprehensions, and I found myself often sharing them. I would like to recognize that not all money is immoral, and with the “right” financing reaching the “right” people, a significant amount of “good” can indeed be accomplished. [We invite you to challenge the terms in brackets, what would you suggest instead?.

Here is when it started for me:

I remember when I started volunteering at a nonprofit, back in 2006. I was building homes, in areas affected by war. We would do it in collaboration with the families who live there, who would host us in their places. I was proud that the volunteering work I did made a concrete and direct impact. We were a few dozens of persons, and we re-built villages, schools, businesses… to perfection, with little supervision from skilled construction workers. We would boast that we can do so much, with so little. We really had so little funding, and would receive donations here and there to make the work happen. We saw fundraising and communication as the least “honorable” tasks. We were volunteers aiming to make a difference, not to show off what we do or adapt our values to fit donors’ requirements.

Challenging my notions about fundraising & money

I’m still in awe that this actually worked; that for many years, we kept under the radar, we never did any intentional fundraising; and we were able to run successful programs, relying on volunteers willing to give their time and efforts. Businesses would offer the material/equipment and everyone in communities contributed in their own way. I was convinced that money is taboo, dirty, or irrelevant.

We, volunteers, worked with our bare hands to make earth a better place, we did not accept compromises  and most of all we were afraid that money would corrupt the mission, and may corrupt the soul. We were free to act, to change our minds and take decisions democratically among the group. How could we trust a Big Brother coming with a bag full of dollars, to sit with us on the table. This sum of money would have shifted all the focus into other directions.

With time, my mindset started to change. I held many positions with international nonprofits, most of which required me to fundraise, to report (in details) about successes and to make sure we have impact within communities we partner with. I found it necessary to balance between the actual fieldwork and the backstage work needed to cover expenses and overhead. In the back of my mind, I was still convinced that impact and money don’t mix. I was nevertheless successful at fundraising, growing programs and still having an impact. I started appreciating the benefits of having adequate funding. I noticed that it didn’t necessarily affect motivation or the impact you have. On the contrary, with more money, you are able to retain talents, plan ahead and focus on things that matter for impact.

I have so many nonprofit executives, who share so many similar notions about fundraising and money. This is very often shaped by our upbringing, backgrounds and our vision for the ideal world. While our notions might differ, we often find ourselves in positions where we resent, fear or hesitate being the ones who ask for support.

Trees need watering and nonprofits need fundraising

I sometimes find myself repeating quotes like “Money doesn’t buy happiness”. I still think this is true by the way. Money can, however, buy you the tools, expertise, and enablers for happiness. Just like a tree needs nutrients, water, sunlight, and space to grow; so does an organization that wants to make a difference. Funding is one of the fundamentals that help organizations thrive.  Do we consider it a necessary evil? It depends. When resources are given to those who would advance happiness, equity, justice, sustainability and so on, then money is a bliss. With the “right” people, money allows for magic to happen.

When aligned with our values and mission, and when it’s coupled with proper policies and accountability practices, fundraising is fun and rewarding. It is so satisfying when we’re able to see proper resources go to support actions that matter. Have you ever planted a tree? It is a commitment that you make for life. In most of the old cultures, it is considered a sin to leave a tree without proper care. Caring for a nonprofit, or a social and environmental initiative is similar. It’s like watching the tree we planted blossom, and then having the best time enjoying the breeze in its shades. Working for nonprofits, and advancing social and environmental causes, takes as much hard work, dedication and perseverance. In all seasons, and in all circumstances, you need to keep going. And you need to adapt to changes. With the proper tools, it becomes easier to bounce back and to maintain efforts.

There is enough for everyone

When I think about it from this perspective, I enjoy linking mission-driven organizations to the support they need. It helps me to focus my energy on shaping the world I like to live in. In my world, abundance is key. In my world, more and more money is a virtue; and it is what makes magic happen. We, the good-doers, deserve to have the right resources. We deserve to be rewarded. And there is enough for everyone. We are on challenging missions, and we need to be able to take care of ourselves, and of our peers. We long for the day we get to rest in the shades of our successes, and we need the resources to reach this day. With money, our impact will be multiplied. I invite you to try on this perspective, to consider fundraising from an abundance and equity mindset. If you agree with me, we need to talk, connect so we can make magic happen!

Author Bio

Janine is a nonprofit leader and a certified fundraiser who enjoys helping meaningful nonprofits to grow. She builds on her wide experience to build a context-specific and adapted strategy for every organization she works with. She loves to solve puzzles, take long walks and learn new things.