Pledging as an Act of Devotion
As we move through February, the FUUSN Annual Budget Drive is just around the corner. For many of us, the Budget Drive can be an emotional hot button. At its best, it can serve as a reminder of all that we hold dear about FUUSN, the collective power of being part of such a vital community, and the many ways in which FUUSN provides us with a deep sense of belonging and a strong sense of meaning and purpose. At its worst, it can activate all our ambivalent feelings about money, status, power, achievement, and self-worth. It can remind us of our imperfections and our present and past disappointments with others and with ourselves. It can activate old wounds and resurrect unresolved grievances. It can raise our underlying fears of scarcity, of not having or being enough, and remind us that financially we are not all equal and never will be.
So how can we navigate successfully through the budget drive season? How can we manifest the better angels of our nature (thank you, Mr. Lincoln)? How can we avoid the car crash of hiding out, ignoring stewarding emails and phone calls, feeling simultaneously obligated, pressured, anxious and inadequate, or superior and insulated from the difficult financial choices that others may have to make in order to contribute meaningfully to funding FUUSN’s operations during the next fiscal year starting on June 1?
I want to suggest five rules of thumb for successfully managing your budget drive experience.
that you are not your financial pledge to FUUSN. Your worth to FUUSN is a product of all the ways you contribute to the well-being of FUUSN over the lifetime of your involvement with FUUSN, past, present, and future. Whether that lifetime is one year or 99 years, you matter to FUUSN because FUUSN matters to you.
(2) Recognize that whatever dollar amount you pledge to FUUSN, your financial support is crucial to the ability of FUUSN to deliver on its promises to you and to the rest of the community. We are all in this together. The more you can contribute, even if the difference is marginal, the more FUUSN can do to enhance your experience and the experiences of every other member of the community.
(3) Appreciate that financially funding our current operations is an investment in our future and your future. FUUSN is a living community replete with intangible value, social capital that can grow exponentially year by year. One dollar invested in our current operations can produce long-term social returns far in excess of that initial one dollar investment. That social capital will benefit not just you, but each and every other member of FUUSN.
(4) Imagine what your life would be like without your involvement with FUUSN. Like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, reflect on the ways in which your life might be less meaningful, less connected, less supported, and more impoverished if FUUSN had never come into your life and you had never come into FUUSN’s.
(5) Consider approaching your pledge as an act of devotion. Reflect on to whom and to what you have been truly devoted in your life. My guess would be that at the core of those devotions has been loving relationship, unconditional commitment, faith in a worthwhile future, and sustained investment of your time and energy. Whether to a person, a cause, an ideal, or an institution, your devotion may have waxed and waned depending on the circumstances, but it is unlikely these four elements have been entirely absent. Approaching your pledge as an act of devotion can strengthen your loving bonds with your fellow FUUSNites, deepen your commitment to FUUSN, liberate you momentarily at least from the conditionality that we impose on so much of our relational life, and reinforce your faith in FUUSN’s future.
If FUUSN is already an object of your devotion, this should be relatively easy. But not surprisingly, you may be a longer-term member who longs for devotion but finds yourself drawn up short by seasons of unmet needs, unrealized hopes or unresolved concerns and disappointments. If this sounds like you, I invite you to use the Budget Drive as an opportunity to refocus on what needs to change, both within and without you, for pledging to become a devotional act. If you are newer to FUUSN, you may not be ready for devotion and its unconditional commitment. If so, remember that devotion develops over time. It is not a one-off thing. Devotion links us to our past and future. Devotion implies intensifying meaning and purpose. It can take time to discover all of this and to situate ourselves within FUUSN’s evolving constellation. In this case, use the Budget Drive as an opportunity to explore and develop the connections and experiences that will jump-start this process.
And finally, a caveat about devotion. Devotion is magnificent. But like all highly addictive experiences, devotion itself can become problematic if experienced in excess. It can become a coercive ideal, another thing that we can fail ourselves in living up to. And devotion can become another source of group pressure, if the devoted become overzealous in their advocacy of devotion. Thus, I encourage all of us to hold our devotion lightly and to express it gently as we approach this pledging season.
–Chris Krebs, Board of Trustees