Doing good without us

It’s getting easier everyday for would-be givers to search out or create their own giving adventures. Connections with causes of the heart are a Goggle search away and that means a much diminished role for old-time intermediaries.

Case in point, this from the September 26 New York Times.

The critical mass of wiki and mapping tools, video and social networking sites, the communal news wire of Twitter and the ease of donations afforded by sites like PayPal makes coalitions of like-minded individuals instantly viable.

You’re looking at a generation of 20- and 30-year-olds who are used to self-organizing,” said Yochai Benkler, a director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. “They believe life can be more participatory, more decentralized, less dependent on the traditional models of organization, either in the state or the big company. Those were the dominant ways of doing things in the industrial economy, and they aren’t anymore.”

In short, while we fundraisers have been busy doing what we’ve been told we should do,  a whole lot of people have done a whole lot of good — without us. (Click here for an amazing example of what I’m talking about.) With all that activity,  much of the conventional wisdom about donor loyalty and giving patterns has been up-ended.


Granted, there’s still a huge giving population that responds to and expects the usual approaches from the organizations they support. Most ministry organizations will likely be okay with business as usual for quite some time.

If, however, our goal is bigger than an organization’s bottom line — if we want to be part of growing a new generation of givers’ hearts for the sake of the Gospel — we need to begin now to develop a different conventional wisdom about fundraising.  It’s time to ask: “What needs to change in the way we relate to the folks who’ve supported our organization if more and more of them are finding blessing through giving, but without us?”

How do you answer the question? I plan to return to this theme often here at Generous Matters, and I’m eager for reader comments.


  1. I would love to see you write an article on this for CLA!

    • Although I would be happy to write an article on this topic for the CLA, I don’t feel my thoughts are well enough formed yet to say much beyond this post. I’ll keep noodling with this idea and see where it leads. Thanks for the encouragement, Mark.

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