to 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 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

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


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

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

100th Post — What Gives???


Happy 100th Post, What Gives!!!

This was a milestone I nearly overlooked, but I didn’t, and this special 100th post is about why I didn’t overlook that milestone.

I recently took a “staycation“, and something I set aside time to do on my staycation was a What Gives Retreat. Thanks to some conversations I’ve had with Rory Green lately, combined with a guest lecture I did on blogging to University of Waterloo students, I realized how important website analytics are. People seem to theoretically like my blog, but am I offering my audience the value they deserve??? My feeling was “maybe not enough”. So through this “retreat” – a.k.a. 3 hours spent at my computer – I aimed to:

  • Update the site — make updates where necessary, delete pages where necessary, and generally make everything look its best
  • Analyze traffic — what posts really resonate with people (based on traffic to that particular post)? Which guest bloggers have driven the most people to the site? Where did those people come from (Twitter, LinkedIn, other websites)?
  • What am I going to do with this information???

I’m big on transparency and authenticity. If you’re reading this, I’d like to think you see value in this blog. If you’re a regular reader, I owe it to you to let you know that I’m working to make the blog better, and better for you – the regular reader – in particular. If you find X most valuable to you as a reader, I want to give you more of X. 

So what are some of my plans???

  1. Write a greater variety of styles of posts — I was chatting about this with soon-to-be What Gives’ guest blogger Andrew Littlefield. He encouraged me to mix up the style of my posts more. I was worried that the age of the article-style blog post is ending, but the better approach is to mix it up. So expect a mix of listicles, think pieces, content from guest bloggers, visual content/infographics, and more!
  2. Utilize LinkedIn more — I had no idea how much traffic could come to my blog from LinkedIn! I realized during my retreat that there’s a lot of unlocked potential here, so expect more content to be shared on LinkedIn.
  3. Use Twitter more / more strategically — I’ve always shared What Gives blog posts on Twitter, but I’m only just starting to use Twitter in a more strategic way: scheduling tweets, repeating tweets, etc. You should definitely tap into my Twitter feed if you haven’t already: @fundraisermaeve.
  4. Aim for higher quality in my posts — Sometimes I post something and think “I can do better than that”. I want to think that less often, so expect a more discerning approach to posting moving forward.
  5. Update What Gives’ branding — This is the lowest priority on my list, but I would like to do a bit of a re-brand / refresh of the What Gives brand, so expect that somewhere down the line.

So that’s it! Thank you for reading, and please keep holding me accountable for excellence in blogging!


Written by Maeve Strathy


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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Finding Motivation When the Sun Is Out

Just over a week ago, I was delighted to contribute a guest post to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Toronto Chapter Blog. When I was invited to write a blog post for AFP Greater Toronto, I hemmed and hawed over what I might write about… and then I lost my motivation. That’s been an overarching theme of my summer, and was when I was working for Trinity College School, too. In educational fundraising, summers are especially tough. At first it’s a great novelty to have the students empty from campus at the end of April, but by July it feels like there’s no energy to tap into.

This is not an unusual predicament for any professional to be in, and fundraising professionals are no exception. I hope you can find some inspiration in my post because when the sun is shining in through your window and distracting you from the work at hand, you might need it!

Please enjoy my post here, and I encourage you to check out AFP Greater Toronto Chapter’s blog on a regular basis to see what other fundraising professionals have to say.


It’s the summer. We’re all staring longingly out our office windows (if we’re lucky enough to have them), wondering why on earth we’re stuck inside working when we could be enjoying the sun, the fresh air, and this brief period of time in Canada where we don’t need a jacket or coat of any sort. Prospects aren’t returning our calls or emails, our colleagues are all taking turns going on vacations, and it’s hard to find the motivation to get back to the work in front of us.

I’ve had a few of these moments lately myself. Despite the lack oSummerKitef motivation, summer is an important time for planning and preparing for the new fundraising year. It’s during these quieter months at work that we have the rare opportunity to sit and think; analyze what worked this past year, strategize about what we need to change, plan out our mailings, and firm up our stewardship processes. It all sounds well and good, but there’s one problem…

I just can’t find the inspiration! Where is that passion I had for my job a few months ago? So naturally I turned to Facebook and asked my friends, what do you do in this situation? How do you motivate yourself?

One of my very wise friends said, “I have stuff on my wall in my office to remind me of the outcomes of my work.” Brilliant! And then I turned and saw a card on my desk that I received from an alumna of the institution who was selected this year for our annual Philanthropy Award. She wrote me to thank me for my help in preparing her for the event that honoured her. She wanted to thank me! She has a great philanthropic story to tell; she’s never given more than $350 in any given year, but she’s given to the university every single year since she graduated.Every year!

Even better, her gifts have been designated annually to pretty much wherever the funds were needed most. In many cases she’s directed her gift to our unrestricted fund, giving the university the flexibility to respond to unforeseen emergencies or even worthwhile opportunities. She’s given to the library many times, too! Her gifts directly impact students, and that’s what I’m here for in the first place.

Speaking of students, next to the card on my desk is a photo of a student and a donor. This donor created a financial assistance opportunity at the university in memory of his deceased son. I had the opportunity to set up a meeting between the donor and this year’s recipient of his award which gave the donor the chance to truly see the impact of his philanthropy. The student expressed – eloquently, I might add – his gratitude to the donor, and he shared what he plans to do with his life after university. It was so rewarding to witness a donor seeing the effect his generosity has on an actual student.

All of us fundraisers, wherever we work, are here to raise money to make an impact. The outcomes of our work are clear; we are so lucky in that sense. Other professionals out there might struggle to see the point sometimes, butfundraising professionals know exactly what they’re here to do, and we have lots of examples that can motivate us through even the sunniest of days.


Written by Maeve Strathy


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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Happy 2-year Anniversary!!! – Maeve’s Top 10 Favourite Posts


Tomorrow – November 23rd – marks the 2-year anniversary of  731 days have now passed since I introduced this blog about philanthropy and fundraising to the world, and during that time this website has produced 59 total posts, 16 guest posts by 14 different guest bloggers, and topics have been covered that range from annual reports to storytelling to donor fatigue to fundraising events to organizations that inspire to social media to the power of listening to introverts!

Last year at this time I decided to take a leap forward by introducing a mission and vision statement for this blog.  I also made a promise to update the website every other Friday, a promise I’ve kept (with 1-2 worthwhile exceptions).  I wanted to aim for consistency as well as purpose.  I wanted to create content that was exciting, interesting, and thought-provoking.  I believe I’ve done that, but I also believe that I can do even better, so rather than use this opportunity to shake things up, I want to recommit to excellence at  I want to work harder to find great guest bloggers, I want to ask my fellow fundraisers what they want to read about and deliver content that meets those needs, and I want to inspire others in the philanthropy and fundraising world to work harder, be more passionate, and make more of a difference in their work.

All of that being said, I still want to use this occasion to celebrate how far this blog has come, and so I thought it would be worthwhile to share my top ten favourite posts from the blog over the past two years.  Let me know what you think, and THANK YOU for reading!  That’s what makes all of this worthwhile.

Maeve’s Top 10 Favourite What Gives Philanthropy Posts
(in no particular order)

Cause vs. Cause – about the New York City Opera needing $20 million and the debate being that there are causes out there in greater need than the opera

A question of ethics – about the “Crackstarter” campaign to buy an alleged video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack, and the ethics of – if the campaign failed – making a donation to an addiction facility with the proceeds
**my favourite part about this post was the comment section!**

Young Alumni Fundraising – Part I about why to focus on young alumni giving Young Alumni Fundraising – Part II about how fundraise among young alumni

Guest Post: The power of Listening by Rory Green  so honoured to have the Fundraiser Grrl write a guest blog post!

To be a fundraiser, do you have to give??? – are we better fundraisers if we’re supporting our cause ourselves?  Do we have to be philanthropic?

You’re a fundraiser.  What next??? – about being a fundraiser when you’re in a fundraising position (and aren’t necessarily feeling like you’re fundraising)

Happy Anniversary, What Gives!!! – A look back and a leap forward! – the first milestone in What Gives Philanthropy‘s history, which I celebrated by creating a mission and vision statement for the blog, as well as a format for how often I would post, etc.

Guest Post: The Story of NationWares by Amie Mariana Sider – Amie’s story and her organization NationWares are both so inspiring.  I’m honoured to know her personally

Why I love what I do: reason #2 – about getting to combine my passions in my work: meeting new people, writing, words/language, psychology, feel-good industry

Guest Post: Is storytelling really the answer for your charity??? by Brock Warner – Brock is another fundraising hero of mine.  It was such a pleasure to have him write one of the first guest posts for this blog


FUNDRAISERS IN TORONTO: It’s time for another #maevesmeetup! Click here to see the details and chime in on date and venue.


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

Can an introvert be a good major gift fundraiser?

A week ago, I had the distinct pleasure of writing my own guest blog post for my friend Brock Warner‘s incredible new blog:  You might remember that Brock wrote a guest blog post for What Gives back in April 2012 entitled “Is storytelling really the answer for your charity???”  His post includes reflections on his experience giving a TEDx presentation, his thoughts on storytelling in fundraising, and it features a video of his TEDx presentation as well.  Please check it out if you haven’t already; it’s excellent!

So of course I jumped at the opportunity to return the favour on his blog, and I wrote a post called “Can an introvert be a good major gift fundraiser?”  My introversion is something I think about a lot.  It’s not something I’m ashamed of, nor do I think it needs to be worn as a badge of honour.  It’s simply a lens through which I can see my behaviours and actions, and it helps me make sense of my unique way of dealing with things.  It makes things hard sometimes, yes, but most of the time I see how my introversion is part of my strengths, and that’s what this post is about.

I’d like to share it with you here now, but I encourage you to check out Brock’s blog on a regular basis to see the amazing things he’s cooking up over there.  Thanks, Brock!


Pretty soon after I decided I wanted to be a fundraiser, I knew I wanted to be a major gifts fundraiser.  Perhaps it was the glamour of it all, or perhaps it was the prospect of looking back one day on the millions I had raised for the causes I worked for.  Whatever the reasons, I was sure I wanted to do it.

And then I became a fundraiser, and I got nervous.  I noticed how my boss (and a major gift fundraiser) spoke in a loud, commanding voice a lot of the time.  I noticed how he seemed to be buddies with everyone he met.  I noticed how he never stood off to the side with the rest of the people in our office at events; he was always chatting with people, working the room, etc.

I noticed how I wasn’t doing those things, and then I had a horrifying thought: maybe I can’t be a major gift fundraiser.  Maybe my introversion – my need to refuel regularly, my allergy to small talk, my deliberate way of speaking – was my undoing in the career I had so intensely dreamed of having.

But then I had my first opportunity to make an ask for a major gift.  I prepared extensively, coached myself, planned the meeting out (including exactly what parking lot I would park in), and arrived early enough to save a good table and take a few deep breaths.  That’s when I realized that just like extroversion can be a perfect quality for fundraisers, so can introversion!

A one-on-one ask is my perfect scenario.  Here I am with a fascinating individual, with a passion for my organization, an interesting life story (everyone has one), and a philanthropic spirit so strong that this person is willing to part with hard-earned money for the sake of a cause they believe in.

My job is to talk to them, learn about their passions, and align them with our priorities.  I’m meant to get to know them, ask questions, but mostly just listen.  Listening is something I’m great at, as an introvert; it fuels me.

So the introverts among us, don’t despair!  Your qualities of quietness, sincerity, and thoughtfulness, and your love for deep conversations and socializing in small groups are perfect traits in a major gifts fundraiser.  Just like extroverts’ traits of boundless energy and a love for people are great traits for major gifts fundraisers, too.

Work well with what you have, because it’s perfect for what you need to do!


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email


Where can I find passionate fundraisers???

When I started my current job, one of the first things my boss did was send me to the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Summer Institute in Educational Fundraising (SIEFR).  After two weeks of getting myself oriented in the office, I travelled to Hanover, New Hampshire and took part in the Institute, which was held at Dartmouth College.  Talk about a great way to start my first real job in the real world! I remember the feeling of “coming home”, to put it in the most corny way possible.  While working at Wilfrid Laurier University in the Annual Giving call centre, I felt like I was in a bit of a bubble.  Over the course of my 3.5 years working there, I was totally immersed in the fundraising world and excitedly learning the ropes, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to have fundraising-related discussions outside of the call centre.  When I got to SIEFR, I realized there was an enormous world of people who were passionate about fundraising, too!  More than that, there were experts, and there was a wider variety of topics surrounding my chosen field than I ever knew possible.  I was wide-eyed and naive and incredibly excited to absorb everything I could. Two years later I’ve become a bit jaded to the professional organizations and networks out there for fundraisers.  I’ve participated in a number of seminars, workshops, webinars, and more, and have been exposed to more organizations than CASE, including:

However, thankfully the delight of connecting with like-minded individuals and equally passionate fundraisers has not worn off… especially when I’m exposed to something new, fresh, and very focused, like Young Non-Profit Professionals (YNP). You may remember me mentioning YNP (#YNPcanada) before in a guest post in April of this year: “Is storytelling really the answer for your charity???”, written by one of YNP’s founders, Brock Warner.  I heard about YNP through my sister, who encouraged me to attend their 1-year anniversary event back in March.  I went, met some great people, and was wildly inspired and energized by a speech by Paul Nazareth, Philanthropic Advisor (a.k.a. coolest job ever).  Needless to say it was a successful event as far as my experience was concerned. The reason I was inspired to write about YNP now is because I attended another one of their events this past Tuesday, July 24th, held on the rooftop of The Spoke Club in Toronto.  Once again YNP did not disappoint with a great venue, fantastic networking opportunities, and an incredible speaker – Daniel Bida of ZooShare (more on that fantastic organization later, perhaps). YNP is great because it’s so specific – young, non-profit professionals.  When you’re networking at a YNP event, you’re meeting people close to the same age and stage as you, facing similar obstacles in their career path, or celebrating similar achievements.  However, YNP is also great because it’s not just about educational fundraising, or even fundraising; it’s about professionals working in the non-profit sector, which casts the net fairly wide.  That means that you’re meeting people in all sorts of orgs with all sorts of positions, so it can be equal parts validating and inspiring; a great balance to have at a networking event. The point is that there’s something out there for everyone.  You may think that you’re uniquely nerdy and passionate about a topic, but then you’re exposed to something like YNP, and you realize you’re not alone after all.  Passion is everwhere! What’s your favourite professional organization???  (Be as specific as you’d like).


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

Time Management for the Busy Nonprofit Professional

It strikes me as ironic that I’ve attempted to write this post a number of times already, each time failing because I got a call, email, had to run to a meeting, or anything else that happens on any given workday.

That’s the way it goes, isn’t it???  Our time is full – of emails, campaign cabinet meetings, alumni association conference calls, event planning, reunion gift updating, letter writing, and more!  Whatever it is you do week in and week out, you have competing priorities, projects, and deadlines, all filling up your day.

[TANGENT]  It’s interesting to negotiate the mission, vision, and overall purpose of this blog/website in its early stages of existence.  I have diverse interests and challenge myself to find ways to tie those interests into my posts without losing sight of the What Gives Philanthropy tagline: “A blog dedicated to philanthropy and fundraising“.  It can be hard to achieve this when my mind is bursting with a variety of ideas, so please excuse me if I ever deviate…

…or don’t excuse me!  Comment on this post and tell me to get back on course.  [END TANGENT]

The reason I’m prefacing this post with all this is because I’m talking about time management.  Is this a topic specific to philanthropy and fundraising?  NO.  However, as always, I’m putting this in the context of my work in this field.

The fact is that we’re always going to be busy – it’s always just a matter of how busy.  So, the important thing is to find the best way to manage our time.  How do we organize our priorities???  What should we be doing first when we arrive at the office in the morning???  We all have our own tricks & strategies and that’s important, but here’s a research article by Susan Fish at Charity Village that may offer you some guidance (including a strategy from yours truly):

Time Is On Your Side: Time Management for the Busy Nonprofit Professional


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: Is storytelling really the answer for your charity???

I am thrilled to add this new post to What Gives??? by our second guest blogger Brock Warner.  I “met” Brock through one of his many initiatives, Young Non-Profit Professionals (of which he is co-chair).  He is bright, enthusiastic, energetic, and full of knowledge.  I couldn’t be more delighted to have him write for What Gives??? and hope to have him involved more in the future!  Without further ado…


A lot has, is, and will continue to be said about the need for charities to tell great stories. That’s because good advice bears repeating. Stories tickle a part of our brains that statistics can’t.

Most charities understand this. But unfortunately, just telling a story isn’t enough. You need to do it well. Very, very well.

A great storyteller becomes the story. They look their audience in the eye. They take their audience on a journey. They tell their best stories over, and over, and over. They keep what works, and cut the fat. They carry you up to a triumphant high, and catch you at the desperate lows.

About a year ago I was lucky enough to give a TEDx presentation. And I do mean lucky. I’m just getting started in my career. It should be someone with 25 years of experience on the TEDx stage, not 2.5 years. But I ignored my lizard brain, and went for it.

The 20 second version of my talk is that successful charities are successful because they told great stories and reaped the benefits. In the past there were a handful of ways to tell stories, but digital technology has since changed the game. Now, charities that can multiply the emotional impact of their stories across channels, rather than divide it, are going to be the charities of choice for the next generation of supporters.

If I could do it all over again I would emphasize even further that storytelling is a skill like any other that you need to learn, practice, and hone indefinitely.

So, is storytelling really the answer for your charity??? Of course it is. And of course, you need to do everything else it takes to run an effective and efficient charity, but we’ll leave that for another blogger to tackle.

I’m always on the lookout for great examples. You can get in touch with me on Twitter @brockwarner, or post them right here on What Gives???.

And if you haven’t seen it, here is my TEDx talk:

Note from the Author: Because I am so proud of the video, and while I’ve got the chance I’d love to publicly thank my wife for being so supportive, Frankie Chow for suggesting I submit a speaker application, Margaux Smith for rehearsing with me in my living room, and everyone that has watched it. And of course, thanks Maeve for letting me guest post on What Gives???. You’re all awesome.

Written by Brock Warner

Fundraiser @WarChildCan and blogger at

You can connect with Brock via:
Twitter | LinkedIn

Fundraising & Peanuts

I just read an awesome article on The Fundraising Resource, a fundraising blog which I found via the CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) LinkedIn group.  It’s called “Everything I Know about Fundraising I Learned from the Peanuts Gang”, and it’s a fun & enlightening piece with some great and simple tips about fundraising as taught (indirectly) by Charlie Brown and friends.  These pearls of wisdom include being open to new approaches, making every ask count, and my favourite, “It’s all about the story”.

Enjoy this little tidbit, but check out the full article for much more great insight!

It’s all about the story
Linus does teach one of the great lessons. What is it that changed everything about Christmas for the Peanuts Gang? It wasn’t the 1st Prize in the decorating contest that Snoopy received, not the Christmas pageant, not Schroeder’s piano prowess, Lucy the Christmas Queen or Charlie’s droopy Christmas tree. It was the story. When Linus articulated what Christmas is all about it changed everything. The lesson is, it is not enough to simply say, “It’s that time of year to give again.” You have the responsibility to articulate the compelling message of the mission and impact of the gift every time you ask someone to consider giving their resources.

Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising since 2007.

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