No One Gives ‘Til It Hurts

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    When I saw a line in a listserve posting referencing that phrase, it took me back to my early days (30+ years ago) in fundraising.

    Back then, the phrase, “Give ‘Til It Hurts,” was part of the lexicon of the capital campaign. It was a simpler time, folks were a lot less self-centered than people appear to be today, and many capital campaigns (depending on circumstances) could get away with that language.

    The idea, back in the “old days,” was that, if the campaign was to fund an “urgent” need in the community, then members of the community were “obligated” to sacrifice in order to satisfy that need.

    My first few years in fundraising was as an itinerant director-of-capital-campaigns for (small) hospitals. In those communities, it was usually accepted, without question, that the “need” was “urgent,” and that, in order to provide for the health-care needs of the community, members of that community had to give “sacrificially” – ‘til it hurt.

    The line, “Give ‘til it hurts,” was eventually replaced with, “Give ‘til it feels good.” But both lines have become trite, and tend to be difficult to say or hear without a grimace.

    These days, major donors are just too sophisticated and too experienced in the nonprofit sector, phrases like the above are (hopefully) no longer in use.

    Of course, in a community where there really is a sense of community, people are still making sacrifices … even (sometimes) in their giving. The focus, now, from the donor’s perspective, is most often not on what’s best for the community, but how their giving will satisfy their own needs.

    Now that’s not necessarily bad. For too long nonprofit organizations felt/thought/believed that people should support them just because of the wonderful things they did. It was always about the needs of the organization and the people it served.

    Today, if an organization wants people to support it, they have to think in terms of how a donor’s gift will satisfy BOTH the needs of the organization and the needs of the donor.

    And, the reason why that’s not a bad thing…. If a nonprofit can show/help a donor understand how his/her gift will satisfy his/her own needs while helping others, then the donor is more likely to continue supporting that nonprofit.
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