Fundraisers are like superheroes

Fundraisers are like superheroes

Fundraisers are like superheroes

Fundraising | Celina Ribeiro | 2 Jul 2012

Fundraisers are like superheroes, right? So when the going gets tough, what is it that has your heart, asks Celina Ribeiro.

Let me cast your mind back to Spiderman II. Or perhaps Batman Begins. Superman, maybe. Or, really, any comic book-based superhero movie ever made. (It’s not really my genre.)

At some point, let’s say it’s Spiderman, is in the throes of battle with his arch nemesis du jour, I’ll call him Scary Scorpion Face. Scary Scorpion Face is no fool. He has detected Spiderman’s true identity and has concocted an ingenious plan to unravel his foe by pitting the two sides of Spiderman’s identity against one another: his superhuman versus his human. At some point in their fighting Spiderman and Scary Scorpion Face reach a bridge, or the top of a building, or some kind of suspended place above a pit of boiling lava. It doesn’t really matter, the point is this place of battle is very high up.

At the denouement, just as you think Spiderman has the upper hand, Scary Scorpion Face reveals his ace: he has Spiderman’s girlfriend in one cage and, say, an entire kindergarten class in another. Both are being hurtled towards certain death. Our valiant hero can only save one. Which has the greatest pull: his heart (the girlfriend) or his rational commitment to the greater good (the kids)?

Spiderman only wants to do good. Close-ups of the hero’s expressionless masked face turning from one falling cage to the other falling cage emphasise this conundrum. Who is he most committed to?

And so I segue seamlessly into my point.

Fundraisers (you’ll like this) are not unlike superheroes. They, too, have dual identities. Charity workers fighting for good, and shrewd marketers fighting for pennies and pounds. Oh yes, usually the two identities co-exist happily within the one body (until a fob-off from operations puts you back in your marketer place), but sometimes, just like Spiderman, you have to choose.

Our Most Influential poll, that gossipy barometer of who’s hot or not in fundraising, is out this month. Each year we see the routine rise and fall of gurus, but what is most interesting to me is what happens to the placement of ‘the donor’ and ‘the beneficiary’. They see-saw. This year the donor is up, and so the beneficiary is down. Last year it was the opposite. This is the girlfriend and kindergarten class dilemma of the fundraising world. Are you motivated by the girlfriend (your passionate, emotional commitment to the cause) or squealing, chubby-cheeked children (your passionate, pragmatic commitment to your donors)? Do you fundraise because you’re good at it and it does good, or is it because you want to do good and it’s the best way you can help?

It’s not a moral question. No one would blame Spiderman for choosing either the girlfriend or the kids. But your answer will provide insight into who, ultimately, you are accountable to. Is your success measured in a legacy bequest or in a funded service? One may lead to the other, but which success really tugs at your heart?

Spiderman saves both, of course. He’s a superhero. 



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Celina Ribeiro

Celina Ribeiro is the commissioning editor of Fundraising Magazine and contributor to Civil Society News.

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