An Open-Spirited Style of Fund-Raising

Excerpted from The Generosity Network by Jennifer McCrea, Jeffrey C. Walker, and Karl Weber.


“Know yourself” is the classic teaching of ancient philosophy, the elementary practice from which all wisdom starts. It’s also an extremely practical piece of advice. In The Generosity Network, we’ll urge you to get to know much more about what makes you tick, beginning with one of the topics people in our society find most difficult to address: your relationship with money. We’ll ask you to consider a series of challenging questions about money—­questions you may never have dared to explore:

• What is money’s role in my life? Am I comfortable talking openly about it? Why or why not?

• Do I think of money as a scorecard, or as a resource to be used for things I care about?

• Is my attitude toward money shaped by my fear of being dependent on others?

• Do I ever use money to control others or to buy their respect or affection?

• Am I willing to redefine what “wealth” means to me?

We’ll also ask you to consider how you spend your money. And we’ll invite you to reflect on what it feels like when someone asks you for money. Does it provoke fear, anxiety, gratitude, anger, or joy? Whether you’re a full-­time fund-­raiser or otherwise engaged in a nonprofit cause, the answers to challenges such as these are critically important. Otherwise, money is going to continue to be used as a tool to manipulate us rather than as a resource to advance our work and enrich our lives. Your relationship with money is just one of a number of inner spaces we’ll encourage you to explore.

Others include your need for control, your willingness to open up to other people, your deepest beliefs about the meaning of success and failure, and the unspoken values that shape your most powerful drives. No, this is not a psychological self-­help book. But to be truly effective—­and satisfied—­in your work as part of a cause-­centered team, you must start by fully understanding yourself. We’ll offer activities and questions that will help you on this journey.


Fund-­raising is often considered hard and scary because we believe that asking for resources will make us vulnerable. We fear rejection and dependence. This causes us to put up walls that prevent us from seeing our partners and potential partners as what they really are—­human beings like us who want to make a difference. Many philanthropists we know feel fear that fund-­ raisers (and other people) are nice to them only because they want their money. “They see me as a walking checkbook” is the common complaint.

Isn’t it ironic how anxiety about money poisons both sides of the relationship, making it more difficult for both donors and recipients to be open and genuine with each other? Only when we begin to recognize this dynamic—­and learn to avoid it—­can we treat the work we’re doing as it deserves to be treated, as beautiful and sacred. Our goal in The Generosity Network is to help you get to the point you can honestly look at your organization’s partners and say, I respect and love you for who you are. I want to know you deeply and to trust in the process of our friendship. Out of that trust, we can create incredible results.


Asking someone to become your partner is a source of enormous fear for many in the nonprofit world. But at its core, it’s truly a simple proposition ­if you put your faith in the vision of your work, if you see yourself and others as a true team, and if you see and respect the unique value each of you has to give. Many great fund-­raisers, like great salespeople, succeed because they are confident. This is about more than confidence. It’s about confidence with an open heart. Confidence that you can work with others by developing a real, authentic relationship with them, inviting them to shape a collective vision that gets refined and defined over time. This kind of asking feels good.

There’s no rejection—­just passion that seeks a different channel than the one you are seeking to fill. Asking for money (or any other resource) when you are standing up, not on bended knee, is a joy—­an invitation for people to relate to their resources in a new way. To guide you toward this new way of asking, we’ll challenge you to consider questions such as:

• Am I willing to take a risk with others? To become vulnerable with them? To enter a true relationship with them?

• Am I willing to see my partners and potential partners as fully human?

• Am I willing to allow others to find their own passions, even passions I may not share?

• Am I willing to be the kind of person who finds continual opportunity, growth, and community as part of a team working on a common cause?

These three themes—­know yourself, know others, know how to ask—­are the keys to a transformational style of fund-­raising. They also offer the best possible summary of The Generosity Network. All the rest, as the saying goes, is commentary.

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