The story of Joseph is among the most well-known of all in the Bible. A turning point for Joseph’s life in Egypt happens when he is called upon to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Through those dreams God reveals to Joseph that Egypt will soon experience seven years of abundance, followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh then puts Joseph in charge of filling Egypt’s storehouses during the years of plenty, to prepare for the downturn that inevitably follows.
This story reminds us that economic cycles have been a reality of life for thousands of years. What goes up also comes down.
Capital Campaigns and Economic Cycles
Since WWII, the US economy has receded once every five years or so. The longest period of growth ever recorded was during the 1990s when the economy went a full decade without a downturn.
I remember the 1990s. Those were particularly good years for fundraising and capital campaigns. Strong economic growth, steady job creation, low inflation, and a surging stock market helped drive total giving in the USA to over $100 billion for the first time in history. But, as always, the good times didn’t last. A new millennium brought us 9/11, followed by war in Iraq, and the mortgage meltdown. What goes up always comes down.
Current Conditions are Ideal for Capital Campaigns
Today, our country is experiencing a time of great abundance. The economy is growing steadily. Taxes and inflation are low. Unemployment is at its lowest point since the 1960s. The stock market is at a record high. According to Giving USA, last year Americans gave a record-breaking total of over $410 billion to charity, a sum four times higher than in 1990.
I accepted my first fundraising job in 1990. In the nearly 30 years I’ve been fundraising, I cannot remember a better time to be raising money. There’s only one thing wrong with it. It isn’t going to last.
The Joseph Principle and Your Capital Campaign
Which brings us back to the lesson of the story of Joseph. In this time of abundance, are you working hard to fill your storehouses? Or are you frittering away the opportunity worrying about tomorrow?
If you are involved with a nonprofit, I encourage you to consider this Joseph Principle as you make your plans. In particular, if you are considering a capital campaign or thinking about making investments in fundraising, be mindful that there’s never been a better time than now.
We don’t need Pharaoh’s dreams to know a downturn is coming. As I write this, our current economic expansion is about to overtake the 1990s to become America’s longest period of continuous growth on record. Some would argue that we are living on borrowed time.
Is a downturn coming? I have no doubt. But not today. Today the sun is shining. So get out there and fill up your barn. Because tomorrow it may rain.
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