The REAL Gifts in the Fundraising Industry
by Ben Harris, President, Production Solutions
The global pandemic has been plodding along in the USA for over 800 days, and the most jarring statistics to me are the millions of lives lost, the millions of jobs lost or resigned, and the many millions with increased symptoms of depression or burnout. The pandemic, for many of us, has created this chronic state of powerlessness or languishing – which directly impacts our psychology and effectiveness.
Many of us in the non-profit marketing/direct response industry had the luxury of being in roles that kept us working safely from home. While remote work presented new challenges and stresses, it was still a choice we had to keep safe and sound while the uncertainty of the pandemic labored on.
Within a few weeks' time of lock down, the print and mail companies were categorized as essential workers in all 50 states and allowed to return to their posts. Try to think back to April of 2020 – and envision having to choose whether you go back to work in person, to pay your bills, feed your family, while not knowing what the virus could do to you and your family if you contracted it. Impossible choice – right? Even still, hundreds of thousands of supplier partners employees, and the owners who lead them, sacrificed everything to get back to work in person.
The TRUE gift to was not the ability to work remotely, but the courage and resilience of the print, mail, and logistics employees of our industry – often referred to as printers, mailers, or supplier partners (which is my preference).
A recent statistic I was reminded of is in most non-profit organizations, up to 75% of annual fundraising comes from direct mail. The fundraising we contribute to and depend on flowing from our industry’s supplier partners to donors and back to our non-profits is essential to their mission. Without our supplier partners, and the courage and ingenuity they exuded, I would argue that our industry would have come to a screeching halt – with a very high likelihood of shutting down or closing longstanding businesses or non-profit organizations.
Try to imagine the perseverance and grit it took, to show up to work – wearing masks, with limited workforces (because many workers chose not to return), having to produce an increase in demand, with new procedures and regulations in place to maintain social distancing, etc. Try to imagine doing your job today or tomorrow – with those conditions being thrust on you, and you having to choose to continue or not. There was no time to ruminate or ponder – our supplier partners in our industry had to act and perform decisively.
In my 20 plus years of partnering with supplier partners, this was the greatest gift that my company, my employees, and our clients have ever received. Without the gift of their courage and resilience, there would be no direct mail to go out, and no direct mail gifts to come back.
They were the calm during the storm of COVID-19, and still are today. Cheers to all supplier partner owners and employees for all you have done for our industry during the past 2+ years, we are inspired and grateful for your gift of service for our industry!
Part 2 of this series coming soon. Next, I will share my thoughts and ideas for how to express appreciation and gratitude for our industry’s courageous supplier partners, along with a few ideas for how to support them moving forward.
Ben Harris has been serving with PS for over 22 years. He leads fearlessly and from the heart, which inspires the PS team to do their absolute best work every day. He invests his time in the people and culture of PS, communicates authentically, fosters a learning environment for his staff, and leads by example. Ben is constantly inspiring and engaging his colleagues and refers to himself as the “Chief Employee Officer”, with a people-focused approach. This leadership is what empowers PS’ thriving work and keeps our team in alignment with our mission. Splitting his time between California and Virginia, Ben enjoys being with his wife, Brooke, and their three kids. He likes to exercise, host fun parties, surf, and go to the beach.