Unicorns, cupcakes and reality

We asked Kentucky to give and they did!  Charities, the media, sponsors and Kentuckians (and beyond) came together to show our nonprofit community and those they serve some love on April 24.  KY Gives Day raised $330,200 from 3370 unique donors for 304 of the participating charities in just 24 hours.  More than just dollars and donors, KY Gives Day raised awareness of the work of nonprofits and allowed participating charities an opportunity to tell their story.   We heard from more than one donor that learning about the participating charities, giving and encouraging others to give was an “addiction.”  Of course it was – giving feels good!  Check out the press release for more information and check the KY Gives Day site  to see how charities finished in competing for prizes.

I wrapped up my first KY Gives Day experience completely overwhelmed with gratitude for the support we received to make KY Gives Day a reality.  I also woke up from my KY Gives Day hangover bliss with a not so pleasant reminder from our survey responses that we’ve got some work to do.  While I’d hoped for this blog post to be nothing but love, happiness, unicorns and cupcakes – the truth is, I’m a little frustrated and here’s why:

If we as nonprofit leaders cannot or will not understand the investment of time, money, resources and strategy required to generate needed funds for our missions – will we ever be able to help the public understand and really support the work of the nonprofit community?  If we as nonprofit leaders (staff, board members, etc.) don’t understand that money doesn’t just fall from the sky, programs don’t just run themselves and lives aren’t just “changed” – can donors or prospective donors truly understand and advocate for those we serve?  Paying staff to do the work – create & implement programs, serve people, pay the bills, clean the place up, coordinate efforts to raise money, handle communications, etc. all require resources – even if you are trying to pull it off with volunteers, some money is essential.  And furthermore, if the organization is continuing to scrape by on a shoestring, how effective are you – really?  I realize not everyone reading this blog feels this way about our work in the nonprofit community  — many of us do get it.  But the problem is those who don’t get it – their lack of understanding that it costs money to run a nonprofit organization (especially an effective nonprofit organization) hurts all nonprofits, including those we serve.  Bottom line:  until we stop undervaluing ourselves, we will continue to be undervalued.  Until we stop pretending that the real work of our mission can be done on a shoestring, it will be expected that we  pay our staff less than a fair wage, operate in facilities that are crumbling around us, belabor the type of paper we use for our brochure because it might look “too nice” and more.  The nonprofit sector, you and me, have important work to do and it requires resources to do it.  We cannot let a few bad apples who have abused their positions and the investments of their donors push the rest of us to the other end of the spectrum – trying to operate with little to no “overhead.”  We also can’t let the belief of some of our nonprofit peers, that charity means poverty, keep our nonprofit sector from doing our best work.  For the sake of our communities and our ability to continue to improve the quality of life in this Commonwealth – we’ve got to help bring them along.

So, there’s a small but important little cloud hanging over my KY Gives Day rainbow.  It doesn’t dampen my gratitude, my excitement for what was accomplished on April 24, my optimism for success with KY Gives Day 2014 and most importantly, the opportunity it provides to transform the work of our nonprofit community.  It just means we’ve all got some work to do – in some cases to shift our own attitudes as nonprofit leaders and in other cases, to help shift the attitudes of the colleagues working with us to  strengthen our communities.

Please check out a few articles related to this topic below and let me hear from you.  I suspect I’ve ruffled a few feathers, and while we may not agree, this discussion is an important one.

DTClore

Danielle Clore

Executive Director

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