How are you handling the grim economic news?
Fundraising can be a challenge in the best of times but now, with the focus of our attention on how bad the economy is and our anxiety about a continued downward spiral, the task of asking people to share what they have is even more daunting.
How can we live abundantly when we are faced daily with the reality of scarcity?
What is the best way to approach donor (and our own) fears about the economy?
We can take wisdom from a saying that has been part of the English language lexicon for at least 463 years, a phrase that reminds us we “can’t see the forest for the trees.” (Attributed to John Heywood, 1546.)
Seeing only the trees around us is natural of course because that is what is immediate, that is reality, as we know it. We have a vague understanding of “our” trees as part of a larger whole but we don’t have the vantage point to see the forest.
Even though we can’t see the forest, we know there is one because trees surround us.
Abundance and scarcity are like the forest and the trees. The reality of scarcity is relative to our vantage point in the trees and abundance is the forest we are in.
The latest James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, has a perfect example of the relative nature of scarcity.
In one scene, set in a Bolivian town, the camera focuses on a communal waterspout that is ever…so… slowly… trickling a few drops of water before stopping completely. The desperate crowds of people standing in line with their empty water buckets panic as they realize there is no more water. Frenzied shouting and fighting erupts on the street.
Meanwhile, in another scene, we see a subterranean cave full of water that has secretly been dammed by the villain of the movie. The dammed water gives the villain leverage to manipulate the Bolivian government and make large sums of money through control of the water supply for the entire country.
There is water, but the Bolivians on the street with their empty buckets are living the reality of no water.
We see this same relative scarcity all around us. If our bucket isn’t empty we fear that it will be. We hold tight to our buckets and watch as the waterspout drips…What is damming the water?
It would be easy to make people with fuller buckets than ours into the villains. But as soon as we start to point fingers we see them pointing back at ourselves. The game of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ can be played in so many different ways and who defines the rules?
Is the suffering of a family losing a home because of a bad mortgage deal, or someone laid off from a job, more or less than a child starving to death, or a family sick with cholera and no access to medicine? Even the poorest of countries has its have and have-nots, its affluent and destitute.
As fundraisers we constantly traverse the ever-shifting ground of the have/have not paradigm. Remembering that we “can’t see the forest for the trees” is a tool to help navigate the slippery road and recognize the scarcity mindset that we all share.
Who is not searching for something they think they need? Who is not protecting what they have?
Our inability to see the forest for the trees is damming the water. Abundance is around us and inside us. To see the forest, cultivate awareness of your inner abundance; know that everything you need you already have.
There are solutions to the challenges we face as a global community. Scarcity is a relative reality and not absolute. Reality is the forest and the trees.
Can we see both? Can we live with the knowledge of the forest while we care for the trees?