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14 Signs You're in a Love Money Relationship

What is a love money relationship and who are love money donors? I discussed the idea of cultivating love money in a previous post, but how do you know when you have it?

In essence, love money is a right orientation, based in respect and mutual care. We always want to assume best intent from our supporters, but people give for all sorts of reasons. In another post, I’ll talk about narcissist money, and how to recognize it. But for now…

Here are fourteen signs that you are in a love money relationship with a donor.

1. A love money donor will ask you questions about what you want to do

Curiosity about your process and plans is not just a part of due diligence for donors, or a demand for accountability at every stage of a project. Their ongoing support ought to come with genuine interest in your work, and that means questions, sometimes, or even mostly, with no other motive than to understand.

You can be proactive and communicate regularly with donors via newsletter, social media, or personal messages, to satisfy that curiosity and create a sense of mutual trust.

2. In a love money relationship, donors integrate your words into a larger picture of the world

You know how couples start to pick up on each other’s phrasing and peculiar phrases? Love money donors will be similarly influenced over time, as they take your work in.

Your work will inspire and excite them. It will give them new perspectives, helping them to see the world more clearly, and perhaps even more kindly, and their words will reflect that. Take your words and yourself seriously around love money donors, because they certainly will.

3. Love money donors will not attempt to mentor you without your consent

When people get excited about a project and are figuring out how they can be involved, their searching can sometimes come with unsolicited advice. Hell, they may even just misread the situation and think that you are asking for advice when you are not. This is just part of their learning process. We will talk more later about one of the golden rules of fundraising, which is “when you want money, ask for advice,” but let’s not deal with that now.

There is a big difference between offering advice and simply assuming one knows better in every way. In a love money relationship, donors don’t make such assumptions. They may be up front about their own experiences in similar situations and the path that they took, but they won’t presume to dictate your path.

4. Criticism from love money donors comes in the forms of questions

If you have fostered trust in a love money relationship, donors will assume best intent as they seek to understand problems when they arise. This goes for changes in the org that seem problematic, or even for worrying changes in conduct on the staff or in your own interactions. The goal is not to punish or belittle, but to understand, and work toward solutions and learn from mistakes where necessary.

When a love money donor is critical of you, they will make sure you want to hear the criticisms first, and then their critique will usually involve questions. Be grateful that they are coming to you directly, rather than allowing things to go unaddressed. The fact that donors communicate with each other can be a blessing, and a donor pulling you aside to have these tough conversations rather than criticize you to others through gossip is priceless.

5. Love money donors will forgive you and will apologize when they are wrong

Love money donors already know that mistakes can and will happen when they invest in your work. In both arts and social justice, human relations are at the core of one’s work. These donors know that human relations can get messy, especially when there is healing to be done through the work. And because they were always there to help make healing possible, they will stick around as long as they have hope for that possibility.

These folks will also own up to their own communications shortcomings, and seek authentic ways to move forward from misunderstandings. Apologies and reconciliations build trust in relationships, and love money donors are all about trusting relationships.

6. Love money relationships are about authentic relationships and community

Speaking of human relations, many love money donors find real joy simply in finding common cause with others. It goes for both introverts and extroverts, though the expressions may vary. Whether it is through in-person gathering or a more abstract sense of solidarity, love money donors are not looking to make anyone feel left out. To the contrary, love money donors love meeting other love money donors. Smart fundraisers arrange for this to happen.

7. Love money donors will connect you with allies and other donors

As I mentioned in my previous post about cultivating love money rather than chasing narcissist money, love money grows. It does so because love money donors will share their network freely. They see your work as precisely the sort of thing that unifies people, and they are excited to share it.

8. Public recognition is not a motivation in a love money relationship

Love money is not given with pressure for public acknowledgement. In fact, many such donors will decline to be recognized. For them, public recognition is at best a strategy for courting other donors who might be inspired to participate by seeing a familiar name. In essence, the donors’ names in the credits are advertising for YOU, not for THEM.

9. Love money donors will be clear about their abilities and limits

Nonprofits and artists know plenty about facing seemingly insurmountable problems and demoralizing challenges. In a love money relationship, the donors see it, too, but they will not abandon hope or wallow in a sense of inadequacy or shift blame. Those motivated by love will remain focused on the task at hand and be clear with you and themselves about what they have to offer – especially in terms of their financial capacity and their time.

10. Love money donors talk about wanting to give more

Even with all they do to support and share your mission, love money donors will often admit they want to do more and give more. They won’t overpromise and underdeliver, or use the possibility of future giving as a flex. They will simply remain within their means, while expressing a passion for your work. As their means grow, so will their support.

11. Your time is precious to love money donors

If they can’t give more, they will at least allow you to be more effective with the time and means that you do have. Giving is rooted in mutual care and a desire to facilitate your work, not distract you from it. It is not a transaction in which you are paid a per diem to prop donors up, to sing for your supper.

Certainly, find time if you can, to break bread and celebrate successes, talk strategy, and affirm commitments to a cause. But in a love money relationship, you get to decide how and when that happens.

12. Love money donors will be interested in the whole team

Love money donors may prioritize their relationship with you as the fundraiser or artist, but they won’t treat others as mere accessories. They will have a circumspect view that assumes every person has an important role to play, and they will remain respectful and curious. After all, as I mentioned above, love money relationships are about a much broader community, and your team is clearly at the heart of it.

13. Love money donors recognize systemic issues

Humans are wired for altruism and to be social creatures. We are also, of course, short-sighted, prejudiced, and reactionary. Combining that with our knack for building systems has certainly made for some labyrinthine problems, among the largest being racism and white supremacy, misogyny and patriarchy, homophobia and transphobia, narcissist capitalism, etc, to which we each unwittingly contribute.

That’s exactly why love money donors are interested in community, in your work and team. They reject the misanthropy that comes from fixating on the problems and want to get back to the powerful connections beneath it all – that right orientation, based in respect and mutual care, which their donations symbolize while also enabling the work.

It is reasonable to expect that donors interested in your causes have done some homework on their own on these issues, for example to discover and address their own unconscious biases, or to understand the basic mechanics of white supremacy culture. They won’t claim expertise, but they won’t expect you to provide them with foundational knowledge, when there is so much literature out there.

14. Love money cares about your future

The future is not an abstract destination for love money donors. The future is made of countless possibilities and stories, woven from individual lives. Your work helps people see the warp and weft of it all, the connections already made and those to come. Hence, love money donors are especially invested in what you make of your life, the work you do, and the path you make for others yet to come.

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