Fundraising as Spiritual Practice
A Karuna Appeal has a daily programme similar to being on retreat, but with the added element of asking strangers for money each evening! The resulting intensity can support a dramatic deepening of spiritual practice - for some greater even than their ordination course - and also leads to successful fundraising. Why? The people that you meet on the doors have none of the usual investment in pleasing you, and so will instead respond only to you as you are: friendly or curt, present or distracted, engaged or listless.
Sangharakshita once described this as "objective feedback par excellence". And of course you want something from these people: you would like them to take a booklet about Karuna's work and later sign a direct debit. More often than not this wish is not fulfilled - in a sense you are rejected - and you are challenged to respond positively and creatively to this. For if you do not, there is no reason why the next meeting will go any better!
You also never know whom you will meet, and what state they will be in, so there is also the practice of being open and positive in not knowing what will happen next. To the extent one can be comfortable with not knowing, one will respond appropriately and skilfully to each person that one encounters on the doorstep or telephone. Fundraising in this way reflects the existential position that we are in all of the time: that we never know what will happen next. We might think we do, but we don’t. Thinking we know what is going to happen next we pre-empt the future, we take of down habitual roads and in this way we miss the person, we don’t connect with them but rather with some idea of who we think they are. Fundraising for Karuna means opening up to this uncertainty. It is about learning to stand in the gap between the impact the world has on us and our response to it. This is not easy, but it is possible and can be incredibly satisfying and enlivening.
To support this process, Karuna fundraisers generally work as part of a team, who engage in meditation, ritual, Dharma study and collective discussion about their experience, facilitated by an experienced trainer. On a six week door-to-door appeal, the team lives together, so there can also an important experience of community. This means that it is a full-time commitment on weekdays, with training each morning, some free time in the afternoons and then he fundraising in the evenings. Most of the weekends are kept free and fundraisers do sometimes leave to visit friends though we suggest you don't do so more than twice during an Appeal so as to maintain the ‘retreat-like’ element and have time to rest up on the weekends.
Phone campaigns are non-residential and based in the Karuna offices in North London. The commitment is also effectively fulltime, with training from 3pm and then calling Karuna donors until 9.30pm. In a sense the experience is less challenging than cold calling people on the doorstep who have never heard of Karuna - existing or former donors almost universally have a positive response to the charity. However you will still have the challenge of re-connecting them to their heart response to the Dalit cause in the midst of their busy lives, and of course the challenge of asking them for money!