11.19 My Year End, Ain’t Yo’ Year End

Can you believe it’s that time of year again? Its okay, you can admit it crept up on you, I know I’ll admit it. I learned years ago that the finale of nonprofit fund development is the year-end fundraising. Everybody is focused on raising money to meet budget goals. I wonder if a study has ever been done to assess the pressure year-end fundraising has on individuals who raise money for their organizations.

I should probably be focusing more on year-end fundraising myself, but recently I was distracted by a word, a simple word. This word stalked me; on paper, in songs, on television, and I heard it flowing freely off the lips of my partner and my friends. I don’t know about you, but I believe it’s best to let God and my angels guide me through discovering what something like this means. I flipped through the bible and there it was: serve/service. It was so clear; after all, that one word is incorporated into my work, it’s even part of our tag line. I don’t know how I missed it. Now my focus has shifted from year-end fundraising to true year-end giving.

My partner Les says serving is reflected in our (people of color) giving, especially during this time of year, that serving returns us to our “roots of giving.” We as a people (black people) were taught to share our blessings, our home, our food, and our fortunes with others. During this time of year we were taught to pool any funds or resources or whatever you could give to help someone else. Les remembers being taught that this type of giving was part of “building on something bigger.” Now that I re-discovered the word, I’ve been thinking, what is the best way I can serve my community in the upcoming year? I want to serve better than I have in previous years.

I know you think year-end fundraising is about strengthening an organization’s bottom line, but don’t you think that, in order to honor our traditions and heritage, our year-end fundraising should not just focus on our own organization? I know this might not go over well with a lot of organizational leaders out there (and that’s a shame) but this year-end my board members and I are collectively going to be “building on something bigger.” We’re going to support not only our organization; we want to help others too. I think this is a concept many people in the social change movement have forgotten about. It’s not about survival of the fittest at the end of the year. We have to remember that when an organization that serves the community closes its doors, the impact affects more than just them.

So what does building on something bigger this year-end include? Something as simple as having my board members create a list of organizations they support, and then we are going to combine lists to create the “Giving List.” Our goal is to share TUI’s Giving List with our friends, family, and social networks and ask them to make year-end contributions (time, talent, or treasure) to one or more of the groups on the list. Yes, of course The Ujamaa Institute will be at the top of the list, but we value the notion of genuinely sharing and lifting up the work of others. Serving in this manner honors our philanthropic nature, it’s what we call serving to create increase for others.

So let me ask you this, what do you think other fundraisers of color would say if I challenged them to not just raise money during their annual year-end push? What would they say if we challenged them to serve not just receive? Some of the ones I know would say okay, or I do, but many of them might say, “Girl you crazy, ain’t no way my organization gone go for that.” You know what I’m going to tell them?