Don't Be An Ostrich

Last week was hard.  I barely slept on Tuesday and woke up Wednesday morning sad, concerned, unnerved.  But I had work to do and so, like most of us, I determined to just get head-in-sandon with it. I’m lucky, however, my work is with some of the most amazing people.  Wednesday was a board retreat with an organization that does life affirming things with adults with disabilities.  The board and staff are people who care passionately about inclusion.  They look to share their good fortune with those with less to level that proverbial playing ground.  Their goal is to provide opportunities, create community, build up rather than tear down.

As I said, I’m lucky.  People who work in and volunteer for nonprofit charitable organizations tend to be outward looking.  They—we, I like to think—look at success not in terms of dollars and cents but in opportunities, fulfillment, support.

Over the past week, I’ve been talking with friends, colleagues, acquaintances, strangers (it is the result of a lifetime of sales and fundraising!) about how we lessen the divide, curb the anger, be able to talk rationally with each other.  I admit, it’s easier with those who think as I do, but then, as my husband keeps reminding me, one lives in an echo chamber and doesn’t grow.

What’s been troubling this election cycle is the acceptance of the Big Lie(s).  Say something—even something demonstrably untrue—and people (some people) will believe it.  False “news” stories exacerbate this.

As a fundraiser, I’m used to putting a pretty spin on things.  But it has always mattered to me and the organizations for which I worked that we kept things honest, we were transparent, and we didn’t let that spin go out of control.  So yes, we use hyperbole, but we never, ever lie about the facts.

As fundraisers, we learn to listen to what our donors and potential donors are saying and to hear their concerns.  We respond to concerns and objections with empathy, education,  and try to work together to find a solution that meets all of our needs.

As leaders, we ensure that we keep to our mission and that our mission stays relevant.  And when, as sometimes happens, we stray or circumstances change the need for our work, we respond positively and look for ways to get back on track or move to another, more applicable one.

More than ever, our sector is necessary.  We need to make sure that we use all our skills to keep the world from becoming any uglier, scarier, less embracing.  We need to stop pointing fingers and start holding hands.  And if all this sounds a bit Pollyana-ish, perhaps we all need to be a little more positive not just in our outlook but in our actions.

This doesn’t mean that you get to put your head in the sand, pretending that bad is good.  More than ever, we need to be vigilant, to stick to our principles, act in ethical ways. It means loudly pointing our wrong and sticking up for right.   It means that we need to keep doing our work and ensuring that we continue making a positive difference.



Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping to move them from mired to inspired.  These days, we all need inspiration.  Learn more at and while there, sign up for the newsletter.  And get fundraising inspiration to have Compelling Conversations, available at Amazon.