For those of us deeply involved in entrepreneurial or nonprofit causes, how much do we think about fundraising? As one of those procedures that we know we must undergo for a greater good, but can’t help dreading in the hours leading up to it? Or as an activity that is best left to others- something we can delegate to others within the team or organization while we busy ourselves with what seems like an affair that is more immediately important?
I guess a better question would be, why is fundraising a facet of nonprofit and entrepreneurship to which many people have an aversion? Is it because… we perceive it as boring?
In an op-ed article for the New York Times, social scientist, musician, and author Arthur C. Brooks argues that fundraising is not all-so bad. In fact, he argues that it can be fun. The op-ed, aptly titled “Why Fund-Raising is Fun”, is how Brooks presents his case. He starts with an anecdote that involves him asking a class of aspiring entrepreneurs a question related to fundraising- nothing too different than what I did to start off this post. Specifically, he asks the group how many of them are looking forward to fundraising, and understandably, gets zero cries of enthusiasm. He explains to them why this should not be the case, and goes on to use some interesting data to inform the reader about his thoughts. HIs extrapolation is also quite profound.
Brooks begins by telling us he detected his own patterns in the data he was given. He found that those who donated money often ended up with more money (post-gift giving of course). He said he passed this data off as “meh”, but when he told university professors about it, they were unsurprised because it just confirmed what basic psych had already figured out: that people who gave charitably are generally happier than those that do not. Spending on oneself usually just has a marginal impact of self-happiness, but spending on others has results in a much greater increase. This is, simply put, because giving money or resources to worthy causes bestows a sense of responsibility, self-efficacy, and meaningful impact upon the giver.
So how does this translate into fund-raising being fun? Brooks argues that the fundraiser has the tools to tap into the psyche of a giver and show them the virtues of giving. By convincing someone with the means to use their financial resources not on themselves (resulting in less happiness), but instead on noble causes (more happiness), the fundraiser achieves a great deal of enjoyment from it.