Lessons of the PBJ Challenge

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Lessons of the PBJ Challenge

A blog entry by Clare Jordan, 8/30/12

This summer I challenged my twin 12-year-old daughters to collect peanut butter and jelly to donate to the food pantry at Crisis Control Ministry. I left it to them to determine how they would like to do it.

The girls may not have had the most creative approaches to my challenge, but I was pleased that they did at least rise to the challenge, taking on something other than swim team, camp and tanning in their summer days.

Hattie held her own lemonade stand one day this summer, and raised $9 and some change. We did not charge her for supplies she used from our home, so she was allowed to keep her gross sales for the PBJ project.

Sarah sent an email to a handful of family and close friends asking for contributions so that she could purchase peanut butter and jelly to donate. She incurred no costs; just the use of her iPad. Sarah raised $70 for peanut butter and jelly.

I took the girls to the grocery to buy some bargain PBJs, and the lesson quickly became easily visible: Hattie selected 2 peanut butters and 2 squirty jellies (she thought those were really fun); Sarah was able to buy 15 peanut butters and 15 jars of jelly.

The girls helped each other stock the cart and bag up their purchases for delivery, laughing as they cleared a shelf in the store. Hattie was gracious in offering to help Sarah with her heavy load, and I decided to take advantage of the jovial moment to bring home the irresistible fundraising lesson in this exercise – philanthropy is relational.

We preach that fundraising is transactional and philanthropy is relational all the time, and the PBJ challenge just brought it home as plain as any example we could offer. Hattie held a special event – she invested her hands-on labor and my household supplies. Sarah called on a few close relationships and asked for gifts, as sweetly as a little girl can. Hattie spent far more time and money; yet Sarah out-raised Hattie by about 7 to 1. Could the lesson be any more clear?

The data shows us that the majority of giving comes from people (88% in 2011 according to Giving USA). Year after year, this mantra does not change, and individual giving continues its decades of reliable growth. Yet many nonprofits still take the easy road and fall into transactional fundraising – sell raffle tickets, bid on silent auctions, buy a gala dinner table. These events are a cost, and keep donors at arm’s length. Why are we spending so much time planning multiple events every year?

Why not open your arms, and invite supporters into a more intimate relationship with your organization. Nonprofit leaders believe passionately in their mission – share your enthusiasm in personal meetings over coffee with those you know or want to know most.

We can buy a lot more PBJs for those who need them if we just talk with people, get to know people, and share our mission with people. And from this, we learn the lesson that philanthropy is relational – it is about people giving to people.

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