Fundraising thought leaders like to talk about “making your donor the hero.”
And they’re right - when it comes to marketing and communications and development.
But in your own mind, on your own time, you have a different job:
To remind yourself just how much of a hero YOU are.
Because fundraising can be hard.
Sometimes, really hard.
The way people treat us.
The indifference. The condescension. The annoyance. The criticism.
The people who ignore us. The ones who make promises, but then leave us swallowing our dignity and chasing them for months.
No matter how thick-skinned we are… these kinds of things hurt.
That’s why it’s important for us to pause sometimes and remember just how great we are.
There’s a Tosafos in Bava Basra that states that gabba’ei tzedakah (fundraisers) are greater than melamdei tinokos (teachers of small children).
Hard to understand. You’d think there was no greater zechus than teaching children Torah. After all, “Talmud Torah kneged kulam” - teaching Torah bears weight equal to all other mitzvos.
The Meil Tzedakah helps us understand:
When a gabbai tzedakah fundraises, he doesn’t just earn reward for the money he raises. He also gets rewarded for unsuccessful efforts.
Why? Because results are in Hashem’s hands. The only part we have control over is how much work and toil we invest.
And because of the inherent pain, rejection, and discomfort, fundraising requires uniquely hard work.
The Yerushalmi in Peah tells a story about Reb Elazar, great talmid chacham and gabbai tzedakah for poor Jews.
Once, while he was away, a group of poor people came knocking on his door.
When Reb Elazar returned and heard from his family about the visitors, he asked them what they had done to help the poor people.
“We gave them food and drink,” his family told him.
“What did they say?” asked Reb Elazar.
“They gave you such praise,” his family answered.
Hearing this, Reb Elazar remarked, “I don’t get a great reward from this.”
The next week, poor people once again came to Reb Elazar’s house while he was out. Once again, his family gave them food and drink.
Afterwards, they reported to Reb Elazar, “These people cursed you and said nasty things about you.”
Hearing this, Reb Elazar exclaimed, “Now I’ve earned a great reward!”
With this Yerushalmi in mind, Rav Chaim Kanievsky ztz”l teaches that the main element for which gabba’ei tzedakah are rewarded is the embarrassment and pain they suffer in their work!
My friend, do you realize how great you are?
You’ve taken on an occupation where you’re building Klal Yisrael on the foundation of your personal pain.
You’re making a difference in the lives of the Jewish people. You’re not just building this generation - you’re impacting many future ones. Without you, the world would be lacking. Klal Yisrael would be lacking.
You’re voluntarily putting yourself in pain for the sake of building your people.
This week, if the going gets rough (and it probably will), remember that. Feel good about your role, your efforts. Take pleasure in the pain.
Feel what a hero you truly are.
You can’t fail.