by Chaim Katz
There was a simpler time, not so long ago, when need was a virtual guarantee of raising funds. Of course, the money never flowed in the streets, as many believed. Yet, if you represented a worthwhile cause, and were willing to humble yourself in front of potential donors, and state your case clearly, you stood a very good chance of succeeding.
I remember, early in my career, when I worked in a small town in the Southern United States. While Anti-Semitism was not a concern, religious Jews, nonetheless, were rarely seen on the streets of this town. Quite simply, they didn’t live there. Imagine my surprise when, one day, I saw a Chassidic Jew, in full traditional garb, walking along in the shade of the magnolias. It seems that he was the owner of “the list” – a time- honored document, passed from generation to generation, listing the small-town USA supporters of his family’s institution in Eretz Yisroel. So, too, the gifts passed from father to son, each continuing to give support in the name of the family.
Somewhere along the line, though, life became more complex. The simple equation of need+ask=give seems to have changed. New factors and new terminology have entered reality. If one compares today’s nonprofit world with its counterpart one generation ago, you would be hard pressed to not see a vast positive difference. New technologies and scientific advances have enabled society to offer services that were once only a dream. But, of course, everything comes with a price.
Turning back the clock is obviously not an option. As the price tag inevitably grows, so does the need for financial support. Of course, every organization looks for ways to operate more cost-effectively. And, sadly, sometimes it becomes necessary to reduce services. But, by and large, when all is said and done, it is still a question of raising money.
To the novice fundraiser, there is a veritable candy store of tools available today to aid with research and management. Information is no longer a mystery. It is an available resource waiting to be mined or harvested. Yet, armed with reams of information and mounds of data, fundraising still requires one old-fashioned element – patience.
I’m frequently asked by fundraisers about funding sources in Canada. And, I can divide the questions into two categories. One wants to know where the quick money is – a throwback to the early 20th century when the collectors came from Europe to find the gold that flowed in the streets. The second wants to learn about the potential, and the best ways of developing the relationships that are ever so critical for successful resource development.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” Similar to the growth of a fruit tree, relationships do not bear fruit overnight. There is a chemistry required that takes time, effort, and, above all, patience.
When I think back to the Chassid in the South, he knew that his task was probably far greater than his ancestors. He knew that he would not always be successful. But, he also knew that his task was twofold. His father knocked on the same doors as his father, declined a cold iced tea, and politely told his story, from the heart. And, each time he told his story, he planted a few seeds. His son has come to pick the fruit, but not without planting a few seeds on his own.
Chaim Katz has lived in Israel since 1987. A native of Toronto, Canada, Chaim’s career has spanned three countries and a variety of positions within the private and business sectors. He currently devotes his time to writing as well as operating a Canadian charitable foundation that supports various projects in Israel.