Are you a Catwoman?

So often, as fundraisers, we are charged with raising all of this money. And we run up against people’s concepts of money, every day.

It colors how our co-workers interact with us.

Sometimes it makes them treat us as if we were different.

Maybe we’re mercenaries. Maybe we’re evil. Maybe we’re interlopers in the “pure” world of program services. Maybe we’re a salesperson, to be treated with disdain. Or maybe we’re a mysterious money bag, to be treated with awe and a little fear. I’ve seen all of these responses and more, when I go in to work at nonprofits.

We often make more than program staff. And of course, they feel resentful about that.

We, in turn, feel resentful if senior leadership do not fundraise enough, and we make most of the money for the agency.

These attitudes often show the other person’s attitudes about money more than they are a reflection on us, on who we are, personally.

But what are our own attitudes about money? Are we conflicted about how we use it, how little of it we get to keep, about all of this and more?

What if there was a book that could help you ask the right questions to explore your unexamined concepts about money?

Well, there is.

mazarine treyz, money, fundraisnig

Lately I’ve been reading Money and the Meaning of Life by Jacob Needleman.
I think every fundraiser and executive director should read this book, and here’s why.

We are all hostages to money. We need it to live. We have student debt. We have bills to pay. And we ask ourselves, in frustration, why we just can’t seem to save. Even we, looked on as the source of money by our co-workers, do not have enough of it.

We also need to explain to our donors why they should part with it to give it to our cause. We need to examine our own concepts so we can help donors examine theirs.

Examining what you believe about money can help you be a better fundraiser.

It can also help you understand your co-workers.

And it can help with your self esteem when you are down on yourself for not having enough money. But you don’t want to be a “sell out” right?

What IS selling out? What are you giving up to work at a nonprofit? And what would you be giving up to work at a corporation? Are they really so opposed?

Needleman writes,

“Take for the example, the question of “selling out.” It is more and more a source of suffering for modern people who feel they must compromise what they consider sacred or morally obligatory in order to satisfy material needs, and are thus prevented from respecting themselves. Now more and more people yearn for work that is in itself “meaningful.” They feel unable to bear the psychological stress (the “hell”) of a job-especially in an office-when the reward is “only” money.

People want to serve some greater good, some immediate human need-and get paid for it.

They find it impossible to respect themselves if they are giving most of their time to helping to produce and sell products or services that do not correspond to a deeper human value. 

But this is a bit naive.

We’ve all known the people at our nonprofits who are doing the job and going home. They don’t feel any better than anyone else for working at a nonprofit versus a for profit.

And we’ve had for-profit people tell us, oh, you just must love getting to make a difference every day! But it’s not that simple, is it? After awhile, it just becomes a grind.

And of course, we see nonprofit leaders who say they have the best interests of the community at heart, while simultaneously stealing and lying.

One can “do good” with such agitation, violence and hidden egoism, or with such dreaming self-satisfaction, that in certain essential aspects one’s life proceeds no differently than that of an individual caught up in the most degrading or trivial of activities. How much of the gross evil in the world is due, in its origin, to people “doing good” in such a way that their actions almost have-sooner or later-the effects of an intentionally villainous act?

What does more god-a man or woman with inner freedom selling a pair of shoes, or a madly self-righteous prophet blind to all the humanly destructive effects of his good deeds?” (Ahem, Tom’s Shoes, Ahem)

And then there’s the issue of how much we make while we do good.

Our wages are so low that people do treat us with disrespect, even as we attempt to change the world.

Yes, I’m talking about our board members, and senior staff, who, because we are working for so little, seem to think that we maybe are not as smart as they are, or maybe we’re not worth as much to the world as they are.

How can we feel respect, even if they try to snub us, gang up on us, or bring us down in other ways?

If money is the measure by which we are judged, how can we have self respect, when we struggle to feed our families, pay off our debts, or buy groceries or clothing?

How do we respect ourselves, when we don’t have money, our society’s one major marker of how successful you are?

Needleman writes that there are two different kinds of self respect. One is money, sure, it’s important, we need it, we want it, everything depends on it. But there’s another, subtler, kind of self respect that we ignore at our peril.

You can derive self respect from one other important thing.

Your ability to see the truth.

This is what Needleman posits, and it’s true, this is definitely how I get a lot of my self respect. I just never thought of it this way before.

Needleman goes on, “The effort of seeing the truth, no matter what that truth is, is the real seed of the higher self; and this effort we can make-no matter what life hands us. The effort to see the truth can and must be an effort independent of everything else, and when someone makes this effort and persists in it, a certain self-respect begins to appear that has a remarkably different taste than the social self respect we all crave so much.

Sincerity is, in its origin, a power of the mind that can exist under any conditions of life. All that is needed is a basic discrimination between what is actually within one’s power and what is not.

What do you think?

Does this give you another way to value yourself?