What does it mean to welcome the stranger?
The tradition of welcome is strong in many cultures and religions around the world. My own family is largely Irish. If I want to get all misty-eyed about my heritage I could point to the importance hospitality held among the ancient Celts.
The ideas of hospitality and sanctuary have served civilization for thousands of years.
And for good reason. Beyond being nice, a strong tradition of welcome encouraged trade. It gave everyone some protection. Even in a strange land, you could usually depend on the “kindness of strangers” – at least for a while.
What has this got to do with fundraising?
Consider the role of welcome in our work.
We talk about welcoming donors to our cause. We work hard to smooth the pathways to our door so we can inspire the funding needed to do our work.
But it’s more than that.
Perhaps your organization’s mission deals with welcoming those on the outskirts of society: the poor, the hungry, and the people without a roof over their head. Your organization’s need to welcome is pretty clear there.
Or maybe you work with an arts organization. In that case, welcome might take the form of access – to people who can’t usually afford your work. Or people who might not understand it.
Whatever your field – social services, arts, education, healthcare, research, there’s a need to welcome people.
We welcome them. And we invite them to help us make the world a better place.
But what have you done, personally, to be welcoming?
If you work with hungry or homeless people, have you left the office to spend time with them? Have they become Roger and Anna and Raul – not just “the people we help”?
If you work in the arts, have you gone into the theater to talk with audience members? To hear what they have to say, person to person?
Whatever your organization’s mission, have you welcomed the $5 donor as much as the $50,000, treating each with respect and gratitude?
At your fundraising event, do you seek out the person by himself in the corner of the room?
Your life will be richer and you’ll be a more effective fundraiser if you make that time.
You’ll be exposed to new viewpoints. You’ll see people in a different way. You’ll see your organization’s work in a new way.
And what you learn will make it easier for you to welcome others – those who need help and those who want to help.
Thanksgiving is about gratitude, of course.
It’s a lovely time of year to focus on what makes you grateful. And gratitude does make you happy and healthier.
But Thanksgiving is also about welcome.
So this Thanksgiving especially, let’s also remember we celebrate the welcome Native Americans offered to the strangers in their land. (And not all those strangers behaved well.)
Let’s follow their lead and make room for the people who don’t always find welcome – in our hearts, our organizations and our country.
Let’s share what we have – our hearts, our knowledge, our comfort and security – with those who need it most.
Thank you for all you do.
Photo by Anthony Delanoix