The main speaker of a podcast I recently listened to described fundraisers as the heart of the charity sector. I normally hold that podcast organization high regard, but no. With the greatest respect for good fundraisers, just NO.
The front-line people doing the actual work of our programs and services are the heart. The social worker meeting with one of their 72 clients. The nurse doing ER triage. The environmental volunteer pulling invasive plants out of the stream. The art therapist helping children overcome experience with violence and abuse. The parent showing up at 5 am to coach a children’s team. The adoption team helping abandoned cats find new homes. The music teacher guiding kids as they learn a skill to enjoy for life.
Whether they are employees or volunteers, they put themselves out there all the time because the mission is in their heart.
Those of us who go to meetings, write reports, create policies, manage finances and, yes, fundraise, and more, are enablers. We make it possible for the front-line folks to do what they do, or do it more effectively, or more often. Our hearts are in the mission too, but we are not the heart.
I remember when I spent years as a volunteer in therapeutic riding. I spent wonderful Thursday evenings with young people with disabilities and the horses who were their therapists. I haven’t been physically able to do that for a long time. My skills and abilities are better suited to being an enabler, and enabler skills matter. But I will not delude myself that it’s the same as the hands-on work of staff and volunteers out there directly serving people, animals and nature.
The front-line people, out there doing the heavy lifting, are our heart.