to five years of what gives!

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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

What I learned about fundraising from a terrifying experience

what-i-learned-about-fundraising-from-a-terrifying-experience

Something really scary happened to me last night…

I was driving home from a meeting around 7:30 pm, and rolled up to a very sketchy intersection in Toronto very close to my home. The stoplight was red, and there was one car between me and the intersection.

All of a sudden, a man darted across the street. He ran up to the car ahead of me and tried to open one of their back car doors. He couldn’t get in, so he headed over to my passenger door. I hurried to lock my door but I wasn’t able to do it in time, and suddenly the stranger was sitting in my passenger seat next to me.

What happened next felt like an out-of-body experience. I calmly told him to get out of my car. He begged me to drive him, as he’d just been “jumped” and needed to get out of the area. I – again, calmly – told him I was not driving anywhere and that he needed to get out of my car. He said he was being threatened by people on the street and needed me to take him away. I said that was not my responsibility and that I needed him to get out of my car.

“Get out of my car,” I said. “Please get out of my car. You need to get out of my car.”

I kept repeating myself until finally, he opened the door, got out of my car, and ran away.

I gathered myself and drove home. Although I’m still feeling shaken, I’m OK and I’m safe.

I recounted the story a few times afterwards – to my girlfriend, a friend, and two of my sisters. Everyone seemed impressed with my calmness in the situation.

The truth is, I’m impressed, too. I didn’t urge myself to be calm in the moment. I just was.

I simply requested that the stranger get out of my car. I was calm, I was assertive, and I was serious. I didn’t scream, cry, or get emotional. I didn’t make a spectacle of it. I simply told the man what I wanted and eventually he did just that.

I don’t want to trivialize the situation that I experienced. I genuinely was shaken by it,

But when I sit down to write my weekly post on Wednesdays, I draw from experience – sometimes very recent, and sometimes unpleasant – to inspire my posts.

And so, I can’t help but think – what could I learn about fundraising from my experience last night? 

We talk a lot about storytelling in fundraising. Inspiring donors through stories is such an important technique in what we do.

But sometimes a story isn’t necessary. Sometimes flowery language, emotion, and a spectacle isn’t required.

Maybe it’s because of the ask you’re making, or maybe it’s who you’re making the ask to.

But sometimes, the best ask is one that’s calm, assertive, and serious. Sometimes you have to make the ask a few times in order for the donor to really feel the impact of what you’re asking. Sometimes they need to know you’re really serious before they consider responding to your ask.

Have you had any experiences that have inspired your fundraising lately? Hopefully they didn’t shake you as much as mine did, but maybe you learned something nonetheless.

Share in the comments below!

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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

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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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

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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

My problem with awareness campaigns

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When I worked at the Canadian Cancer Society as a corporate fundraiser, I had a sign on my desk that read:

“You are here to:

(1) End cancer

or

(2) Raise money so we can end cancer”

It guided everything I did.

Could I work with a corporate partner who wanted help changing their workplace to a healthy one? Even if it didn’t raise money, it met the criteria for #1 so I’d happily pass them along to our cancer prevention team.

Could I help write a letter to go to all employees asking them to give during the staff campaign? It accomplished #2 so you bet!

But it also helped when a board member would suggest something like this: “Let’s get all the taxi companies in the city to put our logo on the side of their cabs” (real suggestion).

I’d run it through my test: does it accomplish #1? Nope. Does it accomplish #2? No. So it’s not worth my time. Because ultimately those “awareness” campaign ideas often came from someone’s ego, not an honest desire to give generous donors the opportunity to help people with cancer.

Because at the end of the day, the family who can’t pay their rent because mom had to quit her job to drive her daughter to chemotherapy… There’s not much she can do with “awareness”.

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Written by Rory Green

roryRory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

Connect with Rory via:
Twitter

Are you killing your team’s creativity?

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So, things aren’t going so well. You’ve recognised that there’s potentially something that could be refined – the excuse of “but we’ve always done it that way” has grown tired and you want to take action.

You feel it’s time to get the team together and pull some ideas into the melting pot. Your team buzzes with excitement; you all sit down in a room with some cookies and have an amazing day of productivity and unhindered creativity.

You’ve taken your findings away and your team patiently waits for the higher powers that be to give them instruction on which avenue will be taken. Then what happens next
completely devastates them;

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing happens. A day goes by, a week – one even comes up to you and enquires if a decision is made and the reply was something along the lines of “We had our creative time last week, today I just need you to focus on your task”. Your team then go back to doing the inefficient task without ever knowing if their opinion was even worth voicing.

Fundraising takes creativity. It takes people with passion, with ability to think out of the box and look at things from different or conflicting points of view to succeed. These are things that should be nourished with a company culture that helps brings those ideas forward. If your team feels like nothing will come of their ideas, then they’ll stop producing them, and maybe even leave the organisation.

However, don’t panic – there are a few things you can do to stop this from happening.

  • Positivity. This is an important time for your organisation. What is said in that room could be the pivotal moment where things change for the better. Some of the ideas shared may not be the best or what you were hoping – but it’s better to inspire and encourage than stop the ideas flowing.
  • Communication. Make sure your team feels they are in the loop. There have been plenty of studies that suggest the more a worker feels in control of what they do the more productive they are. Keeping them regularly updated with how their ideas are developing, whether they are developing or not, will give them the confidence that their ideas are valued. It’s also important to communicate with clarity – no point updating your team if you’re going to use terminology they might not work with usually.
  • Leadership. One of the most pillars of being a good manager is having the confidence of your team and they need to know you’ve got their back. Don’t isolate your work from them, if they know what you’re doing each day, they’ll be more understanding if you have to put their ideas on a back burner. When things go right, celebrate the successes as a team and make sure credit is given where it is due.

As someone who line manages a team it’s important to remember the difference between a boss and a leader. A boss will dictate, think of themselves as above them and ultimately push away their team. A leader gets stuck in, will be a no-ego doer that helps the team improve and accomplish things together – ultimately promoting happiness, productivity and a culture of self-improvement.

Be a leader not a boss. Inspire.

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Written by Alexander Morgan

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Alexander is the CEO of  and is passionate about Donor Engagement.

Connect with Alexander via:
Twitter

Guest Post: 8 tips to fire up your job search

8 tips to FIRE UP your job search!

 

So, you’re looking for a job? You are not alone, my friend. Whether you are thinking about making the transition into the world of fundraising or moving to a new city to be with the one you love, here are some tried and tested tips – by yours truly:

  1. Start with some soul-searching. Where do you see yourself in five years? What kind of fundraising job are you looking for? What are you passionate about? Know your strengths and let them guide you through the job hunting process.
  2. Check out your local job search sites. Here are a couple of my favourites: Charity Village, Indeed, and Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). For AFP, stay connected with your local chapter. I’m in the KW area, so I keep my eye on the Golden Horseshoe chapter. Also, make a list of your top employers and keep checking their websites – you never know when that PERFECT job will be posted.
  3. Inspire yourself with motivational quotes. Each morning I would wake up and post them on my Facebook, as well as print them out and sprinkle them around the house. Don’t underestimate the power of positive thinking.

    Inspiration Board

  4. Network, network, NETWORK! My first week in Kitchener I attended an AFP networking mixer. Best. Decision. Ever! Everyone was super-friendly and very approachable, as you will soon see for yourself in the biz. “Your mission, should you choose to accept it” (too much cheese?) is to push yourself out of your comfort zone and make at least one new meaningful connection at each event. The fundraising world is a very small community, and you never know who can open a door for you in the future.
  5. Learn something new everyday. Read blogs, participate in webinars, attend meet-ups and conferences. I have been participating with the #DonorLove series since its inception, and that’s actually how I met Maeve! There are so many great resources out there to help grow your skills. They are also a great networking opportunity. Here are some other ones you may be interested in that I have/will be attending: The #DonorLove Rendezvous, AFP Fundamentals of Fundraising, and the Canadian Higher Education Annual Giving Congress.
  6. Interview preparation is key! You’ve landed an interview – YAY! Now it’s time to become an expert on the organization you’re interviewing with. If this is one of your dream employers from the list you’ve made (see #2), you’ve probably already spent countless hours reviewing their website and learning everything there is to know about them. One great piece of advice that I received from a friend was to make an online donation to the charity, and then talk about the experience and process in the interview. Thanks, Josh Bowman for this idea!).
  7. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness nor suggests that you are incompetent. It shows that you are taking the process seriously and that you are committed to putting your best foot forward. Ask a friend to help role play some potential interview questions. Ask your mentor(s) to review and provide feedback on your cover letter and resume. Speak to an employment service agent. I found all of these very helpful.
  8. Follow up! After your interview, send a thank you card to everyone involved to make a lasting impression. The ‘gold standard’ applies here, too, so be sure these are sent out within 24 hours. Also, a great question to ask at the end of the interview is their approximate timelines, and don’t be shy to touch base with them around that date.

While it may seem overwhelming at first, I promise you, with a little hard work and determination, it will all work out in the end.

Oh, and one more thing – remember to be yourself and enjoy the process.

Cheers!

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Written by Andrew Geekie

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Andrew is a Development Coordinator with the Alzheimer Society Waterloo Wellington.

Connect with Andrew via:
Twitter | Email

Guest Post: What Can Starbucks Teach Us About Fundraising?

 

What can Starbucks teach us about (1)

Today as I got my morning cappuccino, I noticed Starbucks is running a huge promotion – centred on buying beans, K-cups, syrups, cups and taking the Starbucks experience home.

Why would they do this? Isn’t the whole concept of drinking coffee at home Starbucks’ competition? Don’t they want me in their stores?

It’s because Starbucks has figured out something many charities haven’t tapped into yet: When you like something, you like doing it in different ways, and at different times.

I love going to Starbucks in the morning. I love chatting with the barista about my day as I grab my cappuccino. But I also love a cup of coffee in the office, a quick K-cup jolt in between staff meetings. I love a cup of decaf at 8 pm, enjoyed in my pajamas, on my couch. Having options makes me drink more coffee, not less.

If Starbucks was run like a charity, this promotion might not have happened. The director of In-Store Sales would be at the throat of the Director of K-Cup sales. “Those are MY customers, they come in the store every day – they get to know the baristas! It’s about relationships! K-Cups are a dumb fad you millennial idiot”… “No! In-store sales are dead! Convenience is the thing! K-Cups are the way of the future! MY customers want convenience, you dinosaur.”

As funny as that is, it is a sad reality for many charities – with annual giving, events, major gifts and planned giving all fighting over donors. “You can’t talk to event participants about monthly giving!” “Hey planned giving, back off my mid-level donors, you’re making them uncomfortable.” “Get out of here major gifts, no one invited you, you glory hog.”

It makes me sick.

When did we start thinking of this as a competition?

When did we become so entitled?

When did we start thinking we owned our donors? Like they are our property?

They are not YOUR donors, you are THEIR charity.

That means you have a responsibility to put aside the egos and the silos, and do what is best for the DONOR. You need to trust each other enough to help one another, and to make smart decisions about how to offer your donor the chance to give and be involved in all the ways THEY choose.

Because if your donors love your cause – the way I love coffee – they are going to choose to give in different ways, at different times and in different amounts.  Good customer service means you make sure those options and choices are there – when THEY want them.

Do you want to:

  • Understand how to overcome internal silos within your own organizations
  • See how four different organizations are leading the way in breaking down silos, driving integration, and thinking differently about their fundraising programs
  • Learn different strategies that you can incorporate into your own work to help address silo challenges in your own organizations

Then sign up for this webinar today: Breaking Down Silos: Great Ideas that Drive Integration & Results!

Out of the box creative is more than just a crazy concept from your Creative Director – creative innovation can help you connect with new audiences, help cement your relationships with the donors you already have and drive increased results. See how informed strategy and inspiring creative helps you to innovate and truly integrate channels and messages that resonate with your target audiences. See how you can break down internal silos and drive results for your own organization!

Seats are limited! SIGN UP NOW!

This post originally appeared on the GoodWorks Co Blog.

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Written by Rory Green

rory

 

Rory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

Connect with Rory via:
Twitter

 

 

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