Community is a word we tend to use a lot in the nonprofit world. I like that it’s expansive – it can grow to whatever you want it to be.
But do you know who your particular community – or communities – are?
I ask after reading a terrific article on LinkedIn by Viken Mikaelian. Thanks to my friend Ephraim Gopin for alerting me to it in his Daily Dose of Nonprofit. (You should sign on for it – very helpful.)
The article focuses on one question: when a donor dies, should you go to the funeral?
One reason to go is your community. While the deceased might not know who attends (or might… depending on your beliefs), there are people who will. People in the community. Geographic, or others who also support your organization. Family members who extend your organization’s community – and may take up their family members’ support.
As I write this, I’m mindful that three years ago today, my dad passed away. He left us less than 11 months after my mom. And the people who showed up – the ones who took time from their schedule, who shared grieving and ceremony with us… it meant everything. Neighborhood kids I hadn’t seen much since we were kids together. Friends from college. My parents’ friends. The guys who sang in Dad’s barbershop chorus. That’s community.
So when you decide to make the time to go to a funeral, you can’t even know the comfort you’re giving your donor’s family. You might assume you’re not noticed. But I’m pretty sure they’ll look at the book and see you were there. And it will stay with them.
Other community members will notice, too. That’s good for you as well.
Community happens in funny ways. Living in the same area may technically make a community. But geographic proximity is a weak link when our attention is so scattered. I could have told you the name of every family on my street growing up. I’ve lived in the same house now for more than 20 years, and I could not do the same.
A community of interests is stronger. And if you’re wise and fortunate, you’ll see building that as part of your job as a fundraiser or marketer. It’s not just about the money – really, it’s about a shared passion. Or that’s where you want to move it.
I saw another kind of community grow these past couple of years. You might know that the nonprofit world has lost one of our bright lights. John Haydon passed away peacefully during the night of February 8th. Before his death from a rare cancer, he created a Facebook group for his friends. To cheer on his fight and to share support. But he also created something wonderful – a community that will continue to keep his legacy alive. That will support one another as we miss his presence. (John also left us a book that is in its final stages of editing. If you want a copy once it’s out, leave your email here.)
Did I mention that I never had the chance to meet John in person? That didn’t mean he ever felt less than a friend to me.
Community can happen at a meeting or a funeral. It can happen online. (Thank you, #FundraisingTwitter!) But it’s at moments of powerful emotion that real communities are built.
So go. Show up for people. Or for the people of people who were part of your work.
And because every day you ask people to join your organization’s community – by giving, by sharing, by volunteering – you also have an obligation to be part of the community. What we do really isn’t just a job. It’s important work.