Your work as a Major Gifts Officer or other fundraising professional is a never ending and sometimes thankless job. Whether you are working one-on-one with donors or key volunteers, the work you do is critically important to your organization’s success. The work you do will help influence giving, boost leadership and create a more stable financial model for your organization. Looking at your life’s work from a different perspective will energize you and those around you.
We often take bridges, both physical and virtual, for granted. The following is an excerpt from a presentation made by a top leader in our industry. This leader knew the importance of recognizing the work that fundraising professionals undertake on a daily basis. We trust you will see this in the same encouraging light as we do and share this with your team!
This poem helps us surmise the value of a bridge:
BUILDING THIS BRIDGE FOR THEM
An old man going a lone highway,
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide;
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The swollen stream had no fear for him,
But he turned when he was safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old Man” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here,
You never again will pass this way,
You’ve crossed the chasm deep and wide,
Why build you this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head,
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said
“there follows after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim.
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”
Have you ever really thought about what happens with the funds you raise?
We are reminded of what Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said in a speech before the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation (11/15/2002, at Texas A & M University, College Park, TX):
“THE IDEA THAT ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IS A UNIVERSAL CONCEPT. BUT AMERICANS HAVE MADE IT INTO A WAY OF LIFE AND THE BASIS FOR A CIVIL SOCIETY. (WE BELIEVE THAT) …WHEN YOU CHANGE ONE PERSON’S LIFE, YOU ARE CHANGING THE WORLD.”
Secretary Chao sounds like many of you when she says things like that. It’s true in America as a whole and it certainly is true in the work you do. YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE NOW AND YOUR RESULTS SHALL CONTINUE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE YEARS TO COME!
For all of us, we are BUILDING A BRIDGE TO A BETTER WORLD. Let’s look at how physical bridges can help us better understand our virtual bridges.
- THE GIRDER BRIDGE. In some ways this is the simplest of them all. It is similar to a tree that has fallen across a stream. It connects the two sides, sometimes with no center support. It is a practical, “common sense” bridge.
The work you are doing today will ensure you can continue your mission in the decades to come. This great country needs the presence, people and positive influence of this outfit of ours. YOU will be “on the job” and serving others in 2050 and beyond because YOU are building that bridge to the future. Thank you for ensuring that your organization can address those future opportunities and address those future needs.
- THE ARCH. If you have seen pictures of the aqueducts built 2000 years ago by the Romans (some of which remain in operation today), you know the kind of bridge this is. The Romans conquered the world with their military. That no one can deny. But they maintained control of the lands they conquered because of their outstanding engineering. They knew how to plan. They knew how to build. They knew how to get where they needed to go and how to deliver a ‘product’ at the right time in the right place in the right amount to the right people.
Someone has said that “You can change the future IF you plan for it.” To be able to plan wisely for the future, however, demands the presence of resources with which to make those plans a reality. What you are producing today will allow your organization to impact lives and communities in profound ways. Yours is the “overarching ministry of enablement,” if you will, an absolute necessity to your organization’s future viability and impact.
- THE TRUSS BRIDGE is frequently seen in states like Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio. It is similar to the girder bridge but uses more steel and iron in its construction. It is what most often comes to mind when we think of steam engines crossing a bridge which spans a river. It also is the type of bridge from which Jimmy Stewart leaped to save Clarence, his guardian angel, in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
The truss bridge is formidable and strong. I think it is a ‘picture’ of what your efforts enable individuals and families to achieve with just a wee bit of help from your organization. Human need, even in this richest of countries, will be ever with us. Thanks to what you are doing now, the bridge for those needing to cross from the valley of deficiency to the mountain of possibilities will be in place when it is most needed.
- THE CABLE STAYED BRIDGE. This is one of the most visually appealing types of bridge. If you have driven I-95 from Jacksonville northwards into SE Georgia, you may have glimpsed the sight of a beautiful still-fairly-new bridge to the east as you motored up the interstate near Brunswick. It reminds me, in many ways, of a gigantic harp. It is a thing of beauty, and can make your spirit soar because of that beauty.
Dare I say that is similar to what you do when you give donors the opportunity to touch and affect future generations? Each “transaction” you bring about is much more than the mere exchange of promises and obligations. It is, in a very real sense, a ‘thing of beauty’ as the caring and resources of one person, one family, one generation are entrusted to us for safekeeping, intelligent stewardship and wise use in the years to come. We dare never let them down! They trust us. They believe in us. And “us” really is YOU! May your integrity, competence and caring always be “things of beauty” in the eyes of our donors.
- THE RIGID FRAME BRIDGE sounds as if it is less than attractive, but nothing could be further from the truth. Have you ever seen a picture of the New River Gorge Bridge in W.V.? It is the highest such span in America. Once a year it is closed to vehicular traffic so that people can parachute off the side into the river gorge more than 1,000 feet below. It is the Rigid Frame design that goes into places where many people said “Nothing can be built there. It’s too high. It’s too hard. It’s just impossible.”
I think of the Rigid Frame Bridge in terms of what you give our donors the chance to be part of: something big, something much larger than themselves, something that goes into places too tough, too difficult and challenging for them to go to on their own.
- THE SUSPENSION BRIDGE. Probably the most famous bridge of this type is the one located where Tony Bennett lost his heart, the ‘City by the Bay,’ San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge, when built, was the world’s longest suspension bridge. It no longer holds that title but it remains a thing of great utility and even greater beauty.
Great utility and great beauty. Does that not describe what you offer to our donors?
By virtue of their gifts they enable others to make a difference that is important to them. Families ARE brought back together. Addicts and Alcoholics ARE enabled to kick those habits. Children ARE loved, taught, encouraged and helped to grow into strong, healthy adults.
Building the virtual bridge is the reason why donors want to invest in your organization and your mission. The Bridge Consulting Group can help you build bridges faster and stronger.
Your mission is a high undertaking. Thank you for “Building the Bridges for them!”
Now go out there with renewed energy and build your next bridge. Encourage your team to build their next bridge and let the bridge building begin!