Discovering a Dream

As I write this, I am being inundated with ads. I’m listening to Spotify (no plug just being honest) and getting told all about a spray-on antiperspirant from Walmart. Walmart and spray-on antiperspirant technology are probably two of the top ten subjects I’m least interested in ever thinking about. But that’s what they’re trying (unsuccessfully) to do: tell me a story, engage my mind space, paint a picture of how my life would be better and give me a way to create a newer, better self through the power of their products.

Why do I start out a realizing-the-dream blog post with a Walmart/antiperspirant anecdote? Well, first it’s the reality of our lives, and second it’s what we all want desperately to escape. Fundraisers are no different from anyone else; we don’t want to hear any more ‘pitches’ or be ‘sold’ anything. So the last thing we want to do is create more boring ads or fall into marketing cliches. Instead, we want to engage authentically with others and make a difference in the world. Let’s take a look at why.

Here’s a redux of some nonprofit missions:

  • Access to career-relevant, inspiring, and public/free education for every child
  • Nutritious, delicious food for starving kids and families
  • Better use of social resources to serve our poorest and least served citizens
  • Stopping human trafficking
  • Slowing global warming
  • Saving the rain forests
  • Humane treatment of animals

If you were worrying about the world before you go to sleep (I NEVER do this, obviously :)), most of these issues make the short list. Most of the solutions our nonprofits are working on are actually fulfilling the dream of a new and hopeful world, now so much more connected to the problems that humanity has caused and so much more inspired to do something about them.

Think about the substance of what Emma Lazarus wrote over a century ago about the yearning dream of a young blood, rowdy United States to hold a light up into the darkness.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” — Emma Lazarus

(OK, so wretched refuse is a little bit strong, but who hasn’t felt like that once or twice?) We do what we do because our work is literally the stuff of hopes and dreams. And the stuff of hopes and dreams is powerful. It’s what really moves us — whether it’s to work hard to provide the dream of a safe home for your family or to follow the dream of tracing the path of Marco Polo and Magellan around the globe. For ourselves, for our organizations, for our partners and volunteers, and for our team, dreams and hopes are the closely held heart of our world, and create a common axis about which we can all revolve, work, play, and contribute.

A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities — J.R.R. Tolkien

At heart, fundraisers are dream activators. Because we really can’t achieve the dream without support. And this is where things can get tricky because it can be hard having to ask others to put a price on a dream, to pay for it like a transaction instead of focusing on co-creation. That’s where you, I, we can consider reversing our thinking and can start focusing on the dream again — and how you’re going to make the dream come true with a lot of help from your friends. Something to think about.

Some questions for you: What kind of dream would you commit your resources and time toward to build with your community? What dream are you working on with your organization? Would you commit to it? Why or why not? There’s no judgment; it’s a kind of risky/scary world we live in, money is fraught with emotion, and commitments are difficult to make. So think through it and leave me some thoughts in the comments.

Curious lynx wants to know what dreams you would commit yourself to in order to change our world.

This post was inspired by Chapter two of Jennifer McRea’s and Jeffrey C. Walker’s amazing book The Generosity Network.