Before the winter set in, I made a bird feeder and hung it from the branch in a bush not far from a window that looks out at my backyard. It’s not fancy, just an old plastic milk jug that I cut a couple good sized holes in so I can put food in it. I put birdseed in it, some field corn, pumpkin seeds, and occasionally some bits of fruit. It is interesting and peaceful to watch, and it gives my cats something to do when they sit in the window.
I get a small variety of visitors at my bird feeder. I get a pair of cardinals, a good number of sparrows, a handful of juncos, and the squirrels that live in my neighbor’s attic. On a couple of occasions, I have seen a pair of mourning doves visit, but not since the extreme weather (well below 0 Fahrenheit) has hit.
The squirrels that visit the feeder remind me of some of the nonprofits in the area where I live. They climb the branches of the bush, and hang like trapeze artists to gain entrance to the feeder, and if successful in their attempt, search for the corn and larger seeds. They don’t care much for the smaller seeds and push it out for the birds that come along. The nonprofits that I compare the squirrels to spend their time jumping through hoops seeking the bigger gifts, grants, and government contracts. They don’t waste their time on smaller donors, just like the squirrels don’t spend much time eating the smaller seeds.
The cardinals, the largest and the prettiest of the birds that visit the feeder, are like the more popular nonprofits. They like to fly directly into the feeder and look for the bigger seeds and pieces of fruit, but they will also consume the smaller seeds too, and when the feeder is empty, they will look for seed that fell out of the feeder into the snow. They have missions and programs that get the most public attention, helping them get larger gifts and more participation for their special events, but they will also work to get support from individuals, especially when times are hard and resources are scarce.
Sparrows are the most numerous and constant visitors at the bird feeder. Unless there are no other birds or squirrels around, they do not fly into the feeder and eat the seed that the others have knocked out of jug and onto the ground. They are a bit drab and nondescript, much like smaller nonprofits in the community that rely on gifts from small donors and small grants. They don’t get the attention that the flashy red cardinals get, and when the seed on top of the snow is gone, or new snow covers the seed they go away to find more elsewhere. They must hope that some benefactor is willing to feed them during these rough winter conditions.
The junco is the other small bird that comes to the feeder. Slightly smaller than the sparrow, their numbers are fewer. Like the sparrow, these birds tend to eat the seed knocked to the ground by the bigger birds and squirrels. Unlike the sparrows, when the snow covers the seed, they stay around and dig down with their feet, jumping back and forth until they get to their food. These birds remind me of the small organizations that don’t give up when times are hard. They keep looking for resources because they know they are out there.
So the question is: What kind of bird (or squirrel) are you when it comes to fundraising and your organization? Are you the squirrel looking for the big seed and passing on the smaller tidbits? Are you the flashy cardinal that uses its beauty to get more attention and easier resources? Are you the sparrow that gets what it can, and then flies away? Are you the industrious junco that keeps digging to get your reward? Maybe you should think about it.