“What size shoes do you wear?” That was what we heard. We saw a well dressed woman casually take off her sneakers and give them to a woman who appeared to be homeless. Both were getting cream and sugar for their coffees at Starbucks. One walked out with designer sneakers on her feet while the other got into her car wearing socks.
We looked at each other. It happened in less than five minutes. A casual conversation between strangers that ended with an act of charity and kindness that made an immediate material difference in one woman’s life. If we hadn’t been sitting right next to where the conversation took place we would never have known it happened.
Something inspired the more affluent woman to take action immediately. She saw a need and she filled it. She didn’t wait for someone else to take action. She didn’t refer the other woman to a nonprofit, church, or government agency. She took the shoes off her feet and gave them to her.
It was a touchstone event for us. It reminded us that at the heart of nonprofits is passion, concern for others, a desire to make a difference. This beautiful, personal act of kindness reminded us of the goodness that surrounds us. We saw it as a reflection of the spirit, compassion, and love that is a driving force for so many nonprofits.
In this column we typically share information and suggestions related to the art and science of fundraising. Yet at its heart fundraising – or philanthropy as it is referred to in some circles – is about a love for humanity. It is that love which we need to keep front and center when we get tired, angry, disappointed, or frustrated. That is what draws so many of us to the nonprofit sector in the first place.
That love should be the cornerstone of building strong and vibrant organizations that address the immediate concerns of people in need. That love should be what sustains us in long-term policy and advocacy work that addresses the underlying causes of poverty, inequality, and injustice. Love and compassion can temper our tongues when we want to lash out at others, or when we wish people would “just give” so we can get on with the important work of our organizations.
Love in action binds us together in a united vision. Love in action keeps us at the table as board members when we disagree on a specific matter. And love in action sustains us when the road seems long and our vision appears clouded.
Our suggestion: let’s try infusing love more fully into our consciousness and our actions, including fundraising. Let us lift up those who give and invest. And let us give with an open heart.
Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at http://www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.