Career Paths and Calling

I’m on the mailing list for Mazarine Treyz at Wild Woman Fundraising, so recently I got an email about “winning the game of fundraising careers.”

It started with a short summary of what Treyz was looking for in a career before she became a consultant: she wanted a job at a university, where she “could have resources to succeed in my job, like a decent database, plus fundraising colleagues who would mentor me, and a career structure, and move on up to a position that paid enough to take vacations to Paris.”

Of course, she’s willing to give the reader some free advice on how to get one of those coveted university positions. And she’s willing to charge for more advice.

I’m not going to begrudge Treyz her dream job or her advice. I’ve been to her webinars. I’ve read her blog. I might even pay for her conference. She is a good consultant.

And we all have our own paths to follow and our own goals to reach.

But I’m troubled by the idea of ‘winning at the game of fundraising careers’. I say that as someone who’s been accused of trying to become overqualified for the kinds of jobs I want.

There are people for whom fundraising – or other nonprofit careers – is about getting a comfortable and lucrative position. I know some of them. They’re fine people who are often very good at their jobs. But I’m not one of them.

I’m a fundraiser because it’s a way for me to make the world a better place. I’m a fundraiser because it’s how I can feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and free the oppressed. I’m a fundraiser because, as Frederick Buechner would put it, it’s the place where my deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.

When I take classes at The Fundraising School, it isn’t so that I can get a higher paying job. When I earned my CFRE, it wasn’t so that I could vacation in Paris. When I read the latest research or attend a conference or watch one of Treyz’s webinars, it isn’t so that I can be more comfortable. It’s all so that I can help community-based organizations, progressive congregations, and the people who support them make the world a better place.

Even more, I believe that those community-based organizations and progressive congregations deserve someone with those qualifications and more.

For me – and I suspect for most people in the nonprofit sector – this isn’t a career, it’s a calling. It’s not a game that I’m trying to win, it’s a vocation that I’m trying to live out.

And I bet that’s also true for Mazarine Treyz.

Right now, there is a movement in churches and nonprofits arguing that charity is toxic, that helping hurts, and that the entire nonprofit sector needs to be reformed to truly lift people out of poverty. These charity skeptics are telling Christians that traditional charity deepens dependency, fosters a sense of entitlement, and erodes the work ethic of people who receive it. Charity skepticism is increasingly popular; and it is almost certainly wrong.

Now available from Wipf and Stock’s Cascade Books imprint, Radical Charity: How Generosity Can Save the World (And the Church) weaves together research and scholarship on topics as diverse as biblical scholarship, Christian history, economics, and behavioral psychology to tell a different story. In this story, charity is the heart of Christianity and one of the most effective ways that we can help people who are living in poverty. Charity—giving to people experiencing poverty without any expectation of return or reformation—can save the world and help make God’s vision for the church a reality.

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