Listen to Sadayasihi and myself (Varabandhu) discussing the Dublin Phone Appeal

The evening we gathered together in the men’s community in a north Dublin suburb an anti-immigration mob was rioting in the city centre, setting police cars and buses ablaze and smashing and looting shops. I was with a team of mitra volunteers who had courageously agreed, against their personal preferences, to take part in a telephone fundraising appeal to support the ongoing running costs of the Dublin Buddhist Centre. With the forces of Mara manifesting so viscerally in the city centre that November night it seemed to me that putting our energy into securing the future of the Centre and the presence of Bhante’s teaching in Dublin was the best thing we could do.

As police helicopters hovered in the night sky we connected with each other, with our ideals, with how much the Centre means to us and with, more painfully, what it would mean to us if cutbacks had to be made to the support and livelihood of the team – our friends who had dedicated their lives to the Buddha Dharma and from whom we had gained so much. The volunteers left to make their various ways home that first evening with hearts opened to virya and generosity, ready to face their fears about asking people for money.

And so a few nights later, after three sessions of training and much role playing, we met again to begin calling the Sangha and the Sangha to be (friends and even recent course attendees). Two months earlier it had become clear to Sadayasihi, chair of the Dublin centre, that an ongoing deficit between the income and expenses, mainly caused by the increased cost of living, was not going to right itself. She turned to Viryanaga for advice. Part of his advice was to run a phone campaign, which required somebody with fundraising experience to lead it. I was the obvious candidate and Sadayasihi went to FutureDharma to ask permission to “borrow” me. 

When this was granted Sadayasihi told me that it meant much more than just the solving of the problem of who would manage and lead the fundraise. For her the email from Nandavajra also communicated a solidarity, a sense of “you’re not in this alone” and “we are in your corner – we want you to succeed”. Already there was something greater than the sum of the parts happening. 

But we had still a lot of work to do –  six weeks to prepare a phone appeal with the aim of raising approximately €20,000 in ongoing regular annual giving through asking current donors to give more and others to start giving. There was pressure and sometimes this felt stressful. There were tears and there were fears. But now, on the last week of November, we were as ready as we could be. 

Again we gathered in the men’s community – Billy, Caragh, Lindsey, Maeve and Stephan. After dedicating our future efforts for the benefit of all beings the fundraisers fanned out into the rooms and bedrooms of the commandeered community so each of them could make their calls in some privacy. It wasn’t long before we heard, for the first of many times, the sweet sound of a ritual bell being rung from the hallway – where a “giving shrine” had been set up for fundraisers to ritually offer the new pledges.

We raised €1,756 in new annual donations on the first night. With each passing evening the community began to  transform into a Buddhafield from the intensity of open hearted connection that was taking place on those phone calls across the capital and the country. I had a vision of the network of connections that makes up our Sangha being like an electrical power grid which had grown dim but that was now lighting up brighter and stronger with each phone-call. Time and time again people thanked the fundraisers for calling and for reminding them how important the Centre is to them and said they would try to come back again. It became clear that, regardless of whether we reached our target or not, this was a good Sangha building thing to do.

In the end our Sangha responded very generously, giving €18,418 more in annual gifts (which, with tax back on charitable donations, rises to an estimated €24,496). The Dublin Centre is now on a much more solid and sustainable financial footing and the team have said they feel incredibly grateful to the Sangha and much more connected to them. Personally it was very moving and humbling to witness and be at the centre of such an outpouring of support and love. It was wonderful to share my love for fundraising as a spiritual practice with those gallant mitras and to see them catch this passion a little too. Back in October each of them said fundraising was the last thing they would ever want to do. Now all of them now say they’d be up for doing more of it in the future – watch this space guys!

Varabandhu x

P.S. Much love and gratitude to Sanghamani from Karuna and Maitrisara from Birmingham Buddhist Centre for their generous help and encouragement at the planning stages of the appeal.