Asking the Right Questions

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What do you need to know? 

What are your BHAGs? Your big hairy audacious goals?

What’s preventing you from achieving them?

When it comes to these things – the big topics that come with big questions – it’s time to have a real conversation.

This post is inspired by my recent experience attending the International Fundraising Congress a.k.a. #IFC2016 (which was amazing, by the way).

Asking the Right Questions was the theme of IFC, and for me that theme came to a head at a session run by the amazing Simone Joyaux.

Simone talked us through those big topics that come with big questions that I mentioned above.

There are questions in the office that we don’t need a real conversation for: When should we have our next office social? What food should we serve at our next meeting? How often should we schedule staff meetings?

Then there are other topics that do require a real conversation. And in order to have those conversations, we need to ask the right questions.

What are the right questions? They require openness. The right questions force us to remove our biases and assumptions. They cannot be yes or no.

So, if your organization has some money in the budget for something innovative, that might be when you need to have a real conversation.

What might you ask? Maybe, “What opportunities do we see for growth in the organization?”

Which could lead you through a winding conversation full of more questions that arrives at finding an opportunity to invest in innovation.

By asking these questions, we generate learning, which generates change, which builds stronger organizations.

So what are your big questions that require real conversations? 

Answer in the comments below! Or better yet – create the space for a conversation about it in your office, and let me know how it goes!

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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:
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7 reasons why I’m SO EXCITED for #IFC2016

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In two days, I’m boarding a plane to Amsterdam.

Three days after that, I’m travelling from Amsterdam to Noordwijkerhout, the site of the International Fundraising Congress, a.k.a. IFC.

I am so grateful to get to attend IFC, and I am counting down the minutes until I get there.

There’s about a million reasons why I’m so excited for IFC, but here are 7 of them –

#1 – Seeing friends

I’m lucky to have built up a network of fundraising friends over the years, including some international fundraisers who I only get to see once in a while. Some of these friends will be at IFC – Rachel Hunnybun and Beate Sørum, to name a few – and I can’t wait to catch up and talk shop with them.

#2 – Making new ones

I also expect to forge some great new friendships at IFC. There are so many fundraisers there, from all over the globe, and I hope to start conversations with as many of them as I can, absorbing all they have to share with me, and giving back all I can.

#3 – Learning how fundraising is done across the world

And on that note of making new friends, I’m most excited about the international aspect of IFC. I want to learn how fundraising is done in India, Africa… everywhere! Fundraising markets are so different from one another and yet there are so many approaches and practices from other places that could help us here in Canada. I intend to find out what they are!

#4 – Seeing my heroines & heroes speak

It’s like when you’re in your last year of university and you start picking classes based on who are teaching them, because you know who inspires you the most. I’m going to attend whatever sessions interest me the most, but a big factor will be who’s presenting. So many of my fundraising heroines/heroes are speaking at IFC – Alan Clayton, Lucy Gower, Charlie Hulme, Simone Joyaux, Howard Lake, Adrian Sargeant, Kay Sprinkel Grace – it’s going to be hard to choose.

#5 – The chats outside of sessions

I’ve often found that the most rewarding parts of conferences are the conversations that take place outside of sessions. Given the unique nature of IFC – the fact that basically everyone is in the same hotel, you’re in the middle of nowhere, everyone hangs out together, it’s intimate – I can only imagine it’s a hotbed of the kinds of conversations I’m thinking of.

#6 – Speaking overseas

I’m actually lucky enough to speak at IFC myself. I’m part of a special session called “IFC Introducing… Scholars”. That’s right, I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to attend IFC, and as part of that, I get to speak about my fundraising story and participate in a panel. I can’t wait!

#7 – Hanging with colleagues

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love working at Blakely, and I adore my colleagues. Three of them are also coming to IFC, and it’ll be fun to hang out, chat, and share ideas outside of the workplace.

 

Are any of you going to be there? Comment here to let me know, tweet me @fundraisermaeve, or email me at maeve@whatgivesphilanthropy.com.

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

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

Why I love what I do: reason #3

I head off today to St. John’s, Newfoundland to attend the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE) National Conference.  In fact, more than just having the opportunity to attend, I’ve been accepted to present at the conference, and will be delivering a presentation on Monday, June 10 entitled “Alumni Mentorship Programs: Connecting, Engaging, and Tapping In”.  I’m really looking forward to it!

CCAE conferences are made up of professionals in educational fundraising and alumni relations, and I love being around those individuals.  In fact, that’s what inspired today’s post.  So without further ado… and I’ll catch you on the flip side when I’m back from the east coast…

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I’ve written before about Why I love what I do (here and here) and I thought of another reason: the lack of competition.

I would guess that this has much more to do with the fact that I’m in educational fundraising/alumni relations and not another kind of fundraising.  I know non-profit organizations don’t usually compete against one another, but they are usually competing for funding, albeit maybe indirectly.

Schools, however, aren’t really competing against other schools.  I mean, they are for admissions purposes, but once you get the students to attend your school, and they graduate… they’re not an alumnus of any other high school (if you’re a high school), undergraduate program (if you’re an undergraduate university), and so on.

So what does that mean???  Well, to me it means that there’s no competition among educational institutions in terms of our alumni communities.  I’m not writing solicitation letters to your school’s alumni, just mine.  So I will gladly share my successful young alumni appeal letter with you (remember when I did that?), because I don’t lose anything by doing so!  If anything, I gain your respect, and we create an open channel for sharing.  It’s a very congenial track of fundraising to work within!

So I look forward to my conference, because it will be full of experiences like that!  People completely open to helping you out, sharing resources, and celebrating one another’s successes!

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

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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

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If you didn’t see it yet, my last post “A question of ethics” stirred up some amazing comments from three great fundraising professionals.  Read the comments here.