Better Than a Traffic Ticket

I’ve been preparing for traffic court. About 5 months ago, I got pulled over because, the officer told me “of the California Hands Free Telephone law.” Only my cell phone was nestled deep inside my purse. I wasn’t using it for anything—hands free or not. He then told me that I had failed to move forward on a green light. That didn’t seem right to me—I was past the intersection to which he was referring and if I hesitated before pressing the gas, it wasn’t long enough for any of the other drivers to honk. And this was in rush hour, in Los Angeles.

I’m annoyed and confident that I am not guilty. I am just not as sure that I will win.

Depending on who you talk to, either the cop never appears so you win, or they always appear and the judge always go with the cop, so you lose. While I won’t lie and tell you it would be ok to lose, I think that what is really important here is doing what I think is the right thing to do. I truly believe this is a bogus ticket and therefore, I have to fight it.

I confess however, that while I know there was exactly zero chance that I would get a letter in the mail telling me that the cop had an attack of conscious and so I wouldn’t have to appear in court and my ticket was null and void, I still had fantasies that something like that might happen.

It’s the same kind of fantasy that too many nonprofits have about the magic donor who—through no work of their own—will drop off a very large check. Unrestricted, of course. And then, for at least one more year, fundraising will be a non-issue.

It won’t happen, of course, and you will have to do the work to raise the funds that will allow your organization to serve its clients and meet its mission. You’d think that would be a relatively easy thing to understand and do.

The consequences of not doing what you need to do are very high. The rewards of fundraising, on the other hand, are even higher.

There are the gifts you will get. Not easily, perhaps. Often not the gifts you expect. But if you are consistent and ask the right people for the right gift, you will meet with success. And if you take care of those people, your success will continue to grow.

In the course of fundraising, you’ll get to meet a lot of fantastic people. Some of those people will become donors, but even those that don’t may be people you will be happy to have met.

You’ll learn new things about your organization. As you go out and talk with others about your organization, you’ll learn what you know and what you don’t know. And then you can go back and learn what you don’t know—and perhaps dig more deeply into that which you think you know. The more I get to talk about fundraising, the deeper my knowledge gets—it’s the same with your organization.

You’ll remember the passion that brought you to this work in the first place. The more you engage others, the more you will remember and feel the joy and the pride of what you accomplish. And the more you feel that and share that, the more you will get others to become passionate.

It’s not the same as my ticket. Best case scenario for me is the ticket is voided, I get my penalty back, don’t have to go to traffic school, and nothing goes on my record. Best case for you if you fundraise is your organization gets healthier, you have the wherewithal to accomplish your goals, and you develop a stronger pool of supporters.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity and build stronger, more committed boards. Learn how she can help your organization at or email her at