In this Spreecast, Laurel and Bob break down their first impressions of the new Giving USA statistics. Giving levels are nearly back at pre-recession levels but what does it all mean? Give Bob and Laurel a listen to find out!
Last week I spent the last leg of a two week European business trip “presenting” at the International Fundraising Festival in Prague. I put presenting in quotes because so much of the value of this conference comes from the participants learning from each other. The festival, held every two years by the Czech Fundraising Center over three days at the Villa Gröbe, spends the entire second day in “open” sessions where the participants decide which topics they would like to discuss and facilitate the sessions themsleves with us presenters and experts participating and providing tips and guidance where we can.
At The Osborne Group we are privledged to work with many different types and sizes of NGOs including some very large organizations with affiliate structures that hold their own large scale conferences, both national and international. Interestingly, when surveyed, they all very consistently say that while they get lots out of the more formal sessions, they get equal value out of the conversations that develop in the hall between sessions, at dinner, at the bar, and around the coffee dispenser. Anyone who has attend a conference understands the basic truth in this. The IFF has very successfully created a conference that duplicates this informal experience formally, a conference in the spaces and gaps of a typical conference.
So while I did present on Crowdfunding and Fundraising and Activism during the first and last days of the conference, I think the bulk of the real learning took place during the open sessions where topics were as myriad as dealing with stress in fundraising, running a social enterprise, the nature of and limits of corporate social responsibility, and many others. Overall, at least 16 different topics were discussed.
So, why don’t we consultants and conference organizers employ this technique more? I think we tend to find it hard to loosen the reins when we feel that more basic and fundamental areas need to be addressed. In other words, there’s no way I’m going to let these affiliates decide to talk about the ins and outs of crowd funding when none of them have a table of gifts or can even tell me their year to year donor retention rates! I get it and there is merit to this. The fundamentals must be taught but I also think these fundamentals can come out in a more organic way when suggested and organized by the participants themselves. I had a great session where when ended up talking about many fundamentals including metrics, A/B testing, and discussing impact over just reporting news. The original topic centered around how the an organization might do better prospecting.
Many of us presenters use case studies and audience exercise in our workshops. This is admirable but I would like to take this further and again let participants really have more of a hand in the topics that get covered. This can be done in the format that IFF has done it but it would be fine I think if there was just time and space reserved at a conference for participants to organize themselves and talk about topics of their own choosing. So often at conferences there is almost no unstructured time between the formal workshops, dinner, and other “official” “must attend” events. Let’s build in some time for informal learning.
Moreover, when a group takes reponsibility for its own learning and participation (as opposed to just listening) is understood to be part of the format, participants are much more likely to ensure that their own questions get answered, that they will take practical and implementable advice back to their office with them, and that they’ll actually remember what they’ve learned for a much longer period of time.
We “experts” need to do more to promote this type of learning. I’m hopeful that the next time I encounter peer learning won’t be at the IFF 2015.
Engagement and involvement are critical to succesful fundraising. As fundraisers, we must go beyond simply telling people how strong our work is, how effective the methodology is, etc.; we must show them. Messages that are delivered by active engagement are far more credible and memorable than messages that are delivered orally or written. People believe and remember their own experiences. They tend not to believe or remember what they have simply been told.
Here are 50 ideas for engaging your donors and potential donors and inspiring true belief and buy-in to your mission, vision, leadership, plan and projects.
Over the last few years I have had the privilege of conducting fundraising and management work globally. It has been an incredibly rewarding and fun experience; an experience that goes beyond merely having the opportunity to see new parts of the world. It has in many ways confirmed and strengthened my/our philosophy of fundraising here in the United States. My experiences have varied and of course every country and culture are different, but I’ve boiled what I’ve learned down to three main lessons.
Communicating Impact Matters – We all know this in our heart, we talk about it constantly, but I am continually amazed at how infrequently I actually see this happening. In 2011 I was speaking at the International Fundraising Festival, a conference run by the Czech Fundraising Center in Prague, Czech Republic. As part of the conference the organizers brought in some donors/philanthropists to speak to the attendees. I was struck by how forcefully and constantly that talked about a need to have a clear understanding of what their philanthropy was accomplishing. In fact, it was more or less the only thing they cared with the exception of the percentage of each donation that actually went to services, which I could also argue is part of impact.
Here in the US I rarely see impact talked about in such an upfront manner. We tend to spend a lot of time talking about mission (what we want to do), methodology (how we do what we do) and track record (what we’ve done in the past). We seem to rarely “bottom line” our work and come out and say “here’s how the world/community/this family,etc. is better off because of your donation” or if we do, it’s lost in a sea of other information. Impact is why people give. Make it front and center.
Stick to Your Vision – Over the last two years I’ve developed a personal interest in civil society development in Central Eastern Europe and South East Europe. I’ve gone so far as to join the international advisory board of the Czech Fundraising Center and start a blog on Serbian NGOs and civil society. In talking to some of the folks involved with the civil society sector over there they have lamented to me the fact that in many ways the nonprofits have, or are in danger of becoming, mere arms of the government. The government or the EU or USAID puts out an RFP for certain work they desire to have done and nonprofits submit proposals to conduct that work. This isn’t a terrible thing over all BUT I would argue that nonprofits serving communities in those countries will have a far better sense of what those communities needs are than government bodies based in Washington or Brussels.
Far more impactful and interesting and then seeing what institutional funders desire to fund is having your own vision of the impact you’d like create based on the needs that you and your organization see. Your own vision will inspire and motivate. Following the money results in mission drift, at best.
People are Generous – A common complaint I hear in parts of the US is that “there is no money here. This isn’t like New York City where you’re from.” True enough. I understand that different regions have more or less people, industries, foundations, etc. That said, nearly$300B was donated privately last year here in the US. Many of the places I have been abroad have far less money available to them and far less of a culture of philanthropy and manage to carry on.
Is fundraising always easy? No. Often it is very hard. But altruism is a part of our heritage as human beings, hardwired into us. Give people a clear sense of your vision and how their generosity can help realize that vision and the money will come.
you can follow me at: @bobosborne17