Practitioners of transactional fundraising and the cultures who default to it will never know, see, foster, or benefit from the best in human nature and what only time can ripen and bring to fruition.

They will not have taken the time nor listened close enough to hear the deepest of philanthropic intentions, including those who seek to:

  • Create opportunities for others that they were denied
  • Use hard-learned lessons and setbacks to open doors for others
  • Lessen for others the suffering that they or their loved ones have endured
  • Right an injustice that held them back, denied their dignity, or failed to honor their way of being
  • Keep faith with a promise or felt obligation to a deceased spouse, a lost child, a loving parent, or a long-time friend
  • Share what they know to be “the luck of the draw” with others
  • Bring philanthropic light to our personal darkness
  • Leave some place or purpose better than they found it

These beautiful attributes are revealed only to those who listen for them, see and nurture gleams of good intention, connect hopes to promising initiatives led by those determined to deliver on their promise, engage in a form of shuttle diplomacy until a philanthropic partnership is solidified, and work to ensure the partnership is strengthened and perpetuated by honest exchanges and ongoing refinements.

So, tragedy is not too strong a word; it applies to donors who could have done so much more and to organizations who missed so much by skimming across the surface of human potential but most especially to those who spent a career fundraising without witnessing the awe-inspiring soul and the vast potential of true philanthropy.

And it’s a damn shame, too.

Jim Langley is the president of Langley Innovations. Langley Innovations provides a range of services to its clients to help them understand the cultural underpinnings of philanthropy and the psychology of donors and, with that knowledge, to develop the most effective strategies and tactics to build broader and more lasting communities of support. Jim has authored numerous books including his most recent book, The Future of Fundraising: Adapting to New Philanthropic Realities, published by Academic Impressions in 2020. 

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