to five years of what gives!

five-years-of-what-gives

On November 23, 2011 – exactly five years ago – I wrote this post.

But the inspiration for What Gives Philanthropy actually came over a year before I wrote that post, in July 2010.

I was in my second professional fundraising role, and my organization sent me to the CASE Summer Institute in Educational Fundraising. That was my first real fundraising conference, and I couldn’t believe there was this huge community of fundraisers out there to connect with. Fundraisers who were kind, passionate, willing to share and collaborate, and a little bit nerdy – just like me. It might’ve been that conference that really sealed the deal for me. I knew that this is what I wanted to do as my career.

And the speakers! They were all so smart and enthusiastic about what they did. I loved soaking up all the information.

But it was one speaker in particular – Karen Osborne – who totally captivated me. Honestly, I can’t even remember exactly what she was speaking about that day, but I remember thinking to myself – I want to be like Karen! I want to throw myself completely into this work and build a wealth of knowledge for myself that I can share with others. I imagined myself speaking to fundraisers myself. I wanted to do what Karen did!

So I remember thinking to myself, “Maeve, if you want to be a speaker at fundraising conferences one day, how do you imagine yourself being introduced? What is going to be your edge? What are people going to say about you?”

And I think it was that conversation I had with myself that – around 16 months later – led to my starting www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com. Because I thought, what if I started a blog about fundraising and philanthropy? What if when people introduced me they could say, “Maeve Strathy has been writing about fundraising and philanthropy for XX years!” Writing has always been my favourite way to express myself, so a blog would be a good fit!

Now here I am. Exactly five years later. I’m in my fourth professional fundraising role, this is my 189th post for this blog, and I feel I’ve accomplished exactly what I had in mind five years ago. I have built a readership on this blog, a network of fundraising friends here and on Twitter, and I get the opportunity to speak about fundraising on a pretty regular basis.

I’ve never been more passionate about what I do, and my weekly blog post has – and will continue to be – a manifestation of that. It’s where I can share my musings, my experiences, my questions, and even occasionally my answers. It’s where I can rant, celebrate, and express my passion and love for what we do.

So thank you for being along for the ride with me, whether you stumbled across one of my earlier posts, or if you’ve joined me more recently! Although I have always gotten a lot out of this blog myself, I get even more out of it when I know it brings value to you.

Thank you!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

5 fundraising lessons I learned from causing a stir

5-fundraising-lessons-i-learned-from-causing-a-stir

Sometimes I equate my blogging schedule to SNL. SNL doesn’t go on air because it’s ready to go on air. It goes on air because it’s 11:30.

Similarly, I post a blog every Wednesday. I do it because it forces me to write on a weekly basis. I do it because I think consistency in a blog is important. I do it because I believe there are some readers out there who really value what I write, and I appreciate that, and don’t want to let them down.

Sometimes I’ve spent weeks of careful thought on my post, and sometimes it’s a quick post in the morning based on something that I was recently inspired to think and write about.

Case in point: last week’s post — What if we are the problem?

I wrote this post quickly the morning I posted it. Not to say I hadn’t thought about it, but I didn’t carefully choose my words or re-read it a million times.

When I clicked “Publish”, it didn’t occur to me that this post would start a conversation, only that it would make readers think.

In fact, I was a lot more worried about a post I wrote a few weeks ago — #donorlove has its limits. I thought that one might cause a stir.

But lo and behold, I get into the office Friday morning (two days after the post was published) and I get a message from John Lepp letting me know that my post has started a conversation on the Facebook group, Fundraising Chat. A conversation that, for the most part, is very much in disagreement about what I wrote. Then my boss gets into the office and she’s apparently been given a heads-up from another fundraiser who spotted the Facebook thread. So I caught up on the thread and inserted myself in there, too.

At the end of it all, it was a very fruitful conversation, and an interesting one, to be sure. Also, it was a conversation I’m proud that my blog post initiated, even if my ideas were argued against.

In retrospect, I would not have done a thing differently, and I’ve learned some lessons in the process that I can apply directly to fundraising.

Here they are:

#1 – Done is better than perfect

If I hemmed and hawed about every post I wrote, trying to perfect every word, make every thought complete, and ensure it was critic-proof, I’d (a) never post anything, and (b) write really boring posts.

Similarly, sometimes our donor communications go through so many hoops and levels of approval that they end up sterile and totally uninspiring.

Sometimes what we write – for readers or donors – is better a little bit messy. If I had defined every term in my post and been more careful with my ideas, it might have never started a conversation.

#2 – Words matter

That being said, words do matter. If it had ever occurred to me that the word “asset” could be defined so differently by readers, I would’ve chosen a better word, or done a better job defining what I meant by asset.

We can’t expect our donors to give us the benefit of the doubt or interpret what we mean if we aren’t clear enough, so we do have to sit back and consider some critical messages we’re conveying, and make sure it’s clear what we’re trying to say.

#3 – Be part of the bigger conversation

This experience reminded me just how glad I am that I converse with so many amazing fundraisers around the world. Sure, in this instance, they were arguing against what I was saying, but that doesn’t phase me. What I loved was that I was part of a bigger conversation, one that had people debating and challenging each other and sharing new ideas.

At the end of the day, this conversation strengthens our work as fundraisers. Hearing different opinions, participating in debates, connecting with different people, learning about fundraising trends in other countries… this all makes us better fundraisers. We can’t stay in a little bubble. We’re better together.

#4 – Have fundraiser friends

Although I wasn’t personally hurt by disagreements with my ideas, I was buoyed by the fundraiser friends I have out there who gave me the benefit of the doubt and interpreted my blog the way I meant it. There were some great people that I respect who spoke out on my behalf in the conversation and I was so grateful.

Like with #3, it’s important to build relationships with other fundraisers – from different organizations, sectors, and places. These are the people you can vent to, talk through ideas with, gain inspiration from, and more. Again, we’re better fundraisers when we have fundraiser friends.

#5 – Just because someone disagrees with you, doesn’t mean you have a bad idea

Like I said, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I learned some things as I’ve shared above, but the disagreement and the conversation that was started doesn’t make me take back what I said. I still think my point was sound; people didn’t like the word “asset” and that’s OK. I still think it works!

And that’s why we have to have thick skin as fundraisers and sometimes charge through, even when others are in disagreement. There are a two outcomes – your idea could work and lead to great success! Or it fails. And who cares if it does?! Surely you learned something along the way. I did last week!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Vacations & 10 Awesome Fundraising Blogs

vacations & 10 awesome fundraising blogs

You know what makes fundraisers great?

Yes, listening skills. Yes, storytelling skills. Yes, passion, compassion, empathy, persistence, etc., etc., etc.

You know what else?

Sleep. And vacations.

I’m actually writing this post on Monday, May 23rd on the Victoria Day holiday in Canada. I’m sitting in my fluffy housecoat with a cup of coffee in one of my favourite mugs. I’m thinking about how in 9 days – when you’re be reading this post – I’ll be in the English countryside with my partner on a much-anticipated – and much-needed – holiday.

I will not be writing this post. I will not be queueing up the email I send to all subscribers to my list. I’m doing that all in advance so I can take a break from my work – fun as it may be – for a little Maeve time.

So what post do I have for you today? Well, I love my blog, and I’m so glad you do, too, but if I’m taking a holiday, I’m going to redirect your attention to some other awesome fundraising blogs out there.

Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list. I’ve done no research to compile it. It is no doubt missing some of my favourites, and others deserving to be on the list.

That said, PLEASE reply in the comments with your favourite blogs, and maybe one day I will write an exhaustive list.

Anyway – enjoy them, and make sure you book some [insert your name here] time for yourself, too!

101Fundraising

Agents of Good

Annual Giving Network

Bloomerang

Change Fundraising (Simon Scriver)

Fundraiser Grrl (Rory Green)

Future Fundraising Now

Queer Ideas (Mark Phillips)

The Little Words Mean the Most (Tom Ahern)

WeDidIt

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Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email