Three of the more eloquent philosophers of the past few centuries — Mr. Miyagi, John Mellancamp and Alexander Hamilton (if you take Lin Manuel-Miranda’s dialog literally) — all cautioned against sitting on your biscuit and being unwilling to risk it. And while the first one employed the imagery of grapes and a road while extolling his lesson to a young Daniel-san, the latter two were more succinct in their message — “Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”
It’s a simple-enough message, but then, every truly profound exaltation has its roots in the ordinary. Indeed, that is why they are so moving. Because they were right in front of us the entire time. Heck, it took an apple falling out of a tree to point out the obvious — Duh, shit falls DOWN for a reason.
So, if it’s an obvious philosophical tenet, then why is it so hard for many of us to stand for something? You know, saddle up, and put our big boy or girl pants on and generally do something to make the world a better place regardless of our own self-interest or gratification.
Don’t tell me it’s because we have different visions on how to achieve that…different definitions of a better place. There are some debates that are complicated; for instance, there are significant variations in the public school vs. charter school debate or government’s role in helping the poor versus private support. However, surely there’s something that someone can get on board with, such as Cancer. There’s a critical mass of people that want Cancer around or don’t feel too strongly about abused puppies or elder care – really?
It’s hard to believe, but there is a hardened group in our society that just refuse to stand for anything. In fact, according to highly reputable sources like Giving USA and The Chronicle of Philanthropy – not fake news sites popular on Reddit – somewhere between 15% – 35% of Americans just don’t give a shit about charity. They don’t donate money or volunteer their time.
When we’re asked what we do by those not “in the know,” we usually respond that we’re professional “ass-kissers” or “nags” depending upon our disposition, coffee intake, or type of adult beverage nearby. What we usually don’t explain is the constant pressure and need to generate resources for an organization so that its staff can actually do the work associated with saving the world. A better analogy is that fundraisers are living the demented real-world version of Liza and Henry’s nursery rhyme where no matter what they do, they just can’t seem to fill that pesky bucket because it has a hole in it. Every day we have to bring in new gifts, inspire passion, and cultivate new friends or our organization withers and dies.
This endless cycle hastens burn out. We’re not tired from hard work, stress, or unattainable expectations. We’re burnt out because of the aforementioned 15% – 35% of this world that doesn’t give a shit. And we’re not talking about blowing us off after one random voicemail message. We’re talking about the typical nonprofit Board Member – people who are SUPPOSED TO GET IT but don’t make meaningful gifts because they “conveniently” missed a deadline that a dedicated development director called to remind them about five times, emailed four times, and mailed twice. Jon even ran up to a rooftop once and built a make-shift Bat-Signal using his hands to mime his nonprofit’s logo to try and get a board member’s attention. Sorry, no one is that busy.
Before you dismiss the 15% – 35% as being poor individuals without disposable income or free time, stop, collaborate and listen to the stats (great, now we’re both humming Vanilla Ice). Households with incomes below $20,000 give the most to charity of any group as a percentage of income (somewhere between 5% – 6%). So, it ain’t that.
Maybe those hardened souls just don’t care about humanity. Sociologists will tell you that 2% of any population exhibits sociopathic tendencies. How else can you explain network TV executives inflicting Mama June and Honey Boo Boo on us?
And there is also the fact that a critical mass of people just have fucked-up belief systems… things that no one with an IQ above 70 would embrace. For example, you may not know that 3% of Americans (which coincidentally happens to be the percentage of the population with a 70 IQ or lower) believe that Lizard Aliens have secretly taken human form and replaced every world leader in a long-con to prepare our species for domination. And while that may sound eerily like the plot to a very bad 80s mini-series starring Lori Singer’s older brother (his other famous starring role included dressing-up in a loin cloth and carrying around trained ferrets in a satchel) you can Google our claim about the Lizard Aliens to see that its not hyperbole — after all, Jon’s mother told him a million times never to exaggerate.
2% and 3% are huge numbers that translate into tens of millions of people, but that’s just a fraction of what we’re talking about. Those of us who’ve hawked our wares as veteran fundraisers know that it’s 11 times more time consuming and expensive to bring in a new gift than it is to cultivate an increased gift–and that’s to “prospects.” Imagine how difficult it must be to enlighten and engage the 15% – 35% that just don’t give a shit.
So, here’s the thing folks: whether it’s puppies, frail seniors or cancer survivors – there’s something, somewhere that you give a shit about. Well, those causes need fundraisers to frolic down the road and fill our dainty little buckets, hole or no hole, to help them save the world.
You can join us, chip in, lend a hand, return a call, make a difference, and generally “Earn it” as Tom Hanks said to Matt Damon in Saving Private Ryan. Or, you can continue to be noncommittal, unattainable, entrenched Asshats with a propensity for ghosting people that are just trying to do the right thing.
Just don’t squish us, like a grape. It makes a mess, and you’ll never be able to get the stain out of your clothes… or your soul for that matter.
– Jon and Sarah