Monday, May 4, 2009

Welcome to the Holy Beggar! Life at the Crossroads

Begging for a Job: Institutionalized Compassion in the Nonprofit Sector

Every "village" has had a "Holy Beggar". A person who provokes his / her neighbors to exercise a daily dose of compassion. That simple act of tossing a few coins in an open hat or cup ... or even the empty hand ... wakes up the human side of ourselves. We never knew where s/he came from and ultimately couldn't remember life without her (or him). "There but for fortune ..."

Sometimes we are happy to meet those people (the beggar and the ultimate ME who “sees” him/her). Sometimes we felt annoyed, at best "Harumph!": "Grrrrrrrrrr. Why are you standing there?" "You need a shower." "You're making me miss my traffic light." "Your sign is upside down." "Are you really a ‘VIET VET’?" "Do you really need that cane?" "Are you on drugs or drunk?" "Will you to spend my coins to feed that hungry-looking dog."

I've been a professional resource development / marketing communications / PR pro (aka fund raiser, propagandist) who's been working in the nonprofit field for over 35 years. I was been laid off from my job of five years due to the economy (merger). As the "divorce" papers intimated (but never said directly ... silly them), my age put the final nail(s) into the coffin. It's not that the organization doesn't need my skills in raising money for its worthy cause. And, to make matters even more silly, part of the severance “deal” is that I can’t ever again be hired by this organization even if there were a job! After all my success on their behalf, it seemed hostile.

So here I am, begging for a begging job, a conundrum to be sure.

Begging for a job is two-faced: Do I spend my time looking for a difficult job in a horrible depression / recession to help someone else or do I work on developing my own campaign for the uber "cause celébre", c'est moi?

What I find ludicrous (read: insulting) is that the nonprofit professionals, those inveterate "enablers", are encouraging for-profit "suits", who have been disconnected from their heretofore secure six-figure salaries, to consider a shifting careers to the non-profit field. “Hey, over here! Yo!”

Do you hear of any for-profit corps encouraging us career non-profit pros to "c'mon down"?

Sometimes I have to explain to less "sophisticated" nonprofit execs that there is a difference between begging for them on commission vs. begging and getting a salary. The former is considered unethical by fund raising professionals for a good reason.

If I go out on my own, I have somethings to consider:

While free lance begging is quite different from institutionalized compassion (or is it?), I still need to undertake the hunt appropriately, beginning with research: What are the best street corners (already occupied?) to stand and beg, put together a compelling costume, develop the ultimate sign(s?) and see what props will work to my best interest. (Now, we're getting rhetorical). Shall I use a cup? Hat? Sock? Picture of my cat? Sing? Have a boom box? Show a little ankle? Calf? Knee? Thigh? More???

The opportunity to get sponsors may be more profitable. Perhaps a real estate company will pay me for my location (location! location!) or to ask me to jiggle an arrow-ed sign that says, "Estate Open House" with a little Can-Can high step in the direction of the foreclosed (mine?) property.

But what do I know about the dangers? I've sat behind a desk for several years, made calculated phone calls, taken lunch with big donors, reported to foundation boards and enjoyed the gym afterward. Will I get arrested? Do I need a license? Do I have to disguise my face if I would like to get a job somewhere nice again?

I shudder to think. And yet, it is very compelling. Can I walk my talk and demonstrate the value of having someone with a bit more than he/she needs give it willingly to someone who says he/she has nothing (or less)?

I decided to start a blog, "Life at the Crossroads: The Holy Beggar" to explore giving and receiving, charity and charisma, need and greed, in short, begging. ( I’m fishing for help ... but most importantly, a job.

No matter what, "Don't Forget to Ask For The Money."

1 comment:

  1. This makes me remember my Soto Zen teacher Harada Doitsu Roshi of Takayama, Japan. He was part of a network, some yers ago, called "One Bowl Network" to raise... I mean, (beg)for money to build a Zen Monastery in Montana. By the way:
    Begging-bowl (Skt., pātra; Pāli, patta). A bowl used by Buddhist monks to collect food on their daily almsround. The Vinaya states that monks may use bowls made of either iron or clay, and they can be either small, medium, or large.
    Goodluck and, keep on "begging"