“You don’t have to know all the answers, you just need to know where to find them.”
There’s a story I like to tell whenever I address an audience of nonprofit fundraisers. It speaks to what I think of as the single greatest obstacle standing in our way as a community, and especially as a sector—the mistaken notion that when we raise money for an important cause, somehow we’re begging for alms, holding out our tin cup.
The story is about a young college student in a philosophy class. One day, the professor greeted his audience of 100 master’s and doctoral students with a question. “Is this glass half full, or half empty?” he asked.
The students spent the entire 90-minute class debating and discussing, but as you might imagine, they never solved the age-old riddle. This especially frustrated one of the students, whose family had made great sacrifices to put him through school, even after he finished his undergraduate studies.
He huffed and puffed on his way home, where his grandmother, Gertrude, was there waiting for him.
“How was class today?” she asked as soon as he walked in the door, but the student was upset and didn’t want to talk about it. She pressed him, as grandmas are prone to do, and finally he told her about his experience.
“Well, if you really want to know, it was incredibly frustrating. We had a hundred master’s and doctoral students sitting around for an hour and a half, and all we did is debate if the glass were half full, or half ...