Switching roles

As a fundraiser, one of my favourite things is being a donor.  As I continue to learn the ins and outs and best practices of this fascinating field, I love to look critically at other organizations, especially when they are soliciting me.  Although I am definitely thoughtful about how and where I choose to donate, and I have organizations or institutions that are close to my heart, I also like to give every solicitor the benefit of the doubt when they ask me for a donation.  I like to listen to their approach and if it moves me to give, I’ll give. For example, I was once buying tickets to a performance at Fleck Dance Theatre (as in James Fleck) at the Harbourfront Centre.  After adding the tickets to my cart, the website asked me if I’d like to round up my ticket cost to the nearest ten dollars with a small donation.  I thought this was a very smart way of asking someone for a gift, and so I thought, “Sure, why not!”  And with that small and reasonable ask, I am now part of their donor pool. I also like to see how organizations steward me, re-solicit me, and/or ask me to renew my gift.  If I didn’t feel too strong a connection to the organization in the time in between asks, then I may decide it was just a one-time gift, but if I felt well-informed about what they were up to, and they took time to thank me in a meaningful way, then I’m open to a second/renewed gift.  That said, they have to move me to give again.  If they’re asking for a renewal and they ask me to upgrade my gift, how do they ask???  Is it a reasonable upgrade?  Do they give me a few options, like monthly giving? For example, a year passed since my first donation to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and they reached out to me by direct mail to renew and upgrade my gift.  I’ll admit I let the letter sit on my desk unread for a while.  Then I was reminded by an email from them, so I sat down and read the email, which was a well-written, direct-but-not-pushy ask for a renewal and upgrade.  I considered the ask, the options they gave me for how to make my gift, and the ease of doing it online.  As it turned out, it was incredibly easy, doubling my annual gift proved to be very reasonable when I chose to make it in monthly increments, and so I renewed and upgraded. The point of all this is that knowing the ropes gives you a critical eye when it comes to changing your role from fundraiser to donor.  At the end of the day, it’s all about the love of giving, and the importance of doing your part in supporting the causes that move you, but as a fundraiser it’s nice to have a little fun with it, too. What moves YOU to give???

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
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.

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Why I love what I do: reason #2

I’m reminded of why I love being a fundraiser in an educational setting every day of the week, but occasionally someone will engage me in a conversation about certain aspects of what I do, and a fire is lit inside me.  Just as I discussed in my first installment of “Why I love what I do”, it gets me excited to talk to people about how passionate I am about fundraising.  Getting excited about sharing with people what I love about what I do makes me even more excited to do it.  It’s a very happy cycle to get caught in.

So what’s another thing I love about what I do???  The fact that what I do seems to combine my passions together into one field of work.  For one thing, I love meeting new people and getting to know them – one-on-one (I’m an introvert, after all) – in a meaningful way.  I get to do that a lot as a fundraiser / alumni relations officer, and it’s a pleasure every time to chat with an individual about what they do now, how they stay engaged with their alma mater, and how their experience at my institution was.  Every story is unique and wonderful to hear.

I studied English in university and wasn’t sure if it’d be my BA that counted in getting my first job or my English degree, specifically.  Turns out it’s both!  A degree is important to get you in the door of the job you want, but I find my English degree – both in regards to my knowledge of writing and language, and my general critical thinking skills – is specifically valuable.  Plus, more than just knowing about writing, I love to write!  It’s my favourite and most efficient way of expressing myself, my thoughts, my intentions, and my ideas, and there are a lot of opportunities for writing in fundraising – whether it’s writing an appeal, writing a web article about exciting alumni news, or writing a customized proposal for a major gift prospect.

Secondly, I love words and language.  Word choice is an integral part of fundraising, both in spoken and written forms.  Sometimes it can come off as jargon (click here for an jargon-related, industry-specific laugh), but the truth is that the right word or phrase can evoke emotion, and emotion has so much to do with fundraising.

And that brings me to another thing I love about fundraising, I love the psychology of it.  It’s not just a business matter – although some donors prefer it to be that way – but instead an exchange of passion, emotion, nostalgia, and more.  In educational fundraising, a prospect’s memory of their time at the school, perhaps an opportunity made possible for them through a scholarship or bursary, can evoke such a strong sense of desire to give back.  If they see a current student who is only able to attend the school with the help of financial aid, they might reflect back on their own experience, and feel a need to contribute in order to provide this student or other students’ with the opportunities they once enjoyed.

Like I said, it’s not just a business matter or a transaction of money – it’s an experience.  An experience where a donor aligns his or her passions with their resources, matches their emotions up with their fortune.  And that’s another thing I love, it’s a feel-good industry to work in.  These aren’t static numbers on a spreadsheet.  I can see the look on people’s faces when they’re reflecting on the difference that they’ve made, and it’s magic.

This is once again a moment to share the perfect and eloquent simplicity of a child’s definition of philanthropy:

“Because if you help other people, you’ll be a good person, and you’ll feel good inside.”

And that’s another reason why I love doing what I do.

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
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:
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Why I love what I do: reason #1

I’ve been very topical in this blog so far, which was my intent, but I’d like to write a quick post about one aspect of why I love what I do.

As a fundraiser and/or alumni relations officer, you get to meet a lot of people. Sometimes you’re meeting them to ask them for a lot of money, but sometimes you’re meeting them simply to meet them; to engage them, to get to know them, and to find out what they’re passionate about.

Remember what James Fleck said?
Philanthropy is balancing your passion and your resources.

If you do your research, you might know that the individual that you’re meeting with has the resources to make a significant and meaningful contribution to your institution/organization. However, meeting and conversing with them is how you research their passion. Passion and resources; without the former, the latter will never be realized.

So that means that part of our job as fundraisers is to find out what our prospects are passionate about. That means that when you have a conversation with them, you try to get them talking about their passions. That is one reason why I love what I do; hearing people talk about their passions. Why? Because no one speaks more passionately than when they are talking about their passions. They have this energy coming out of them that is absolutely thrilling to experience as a listener; they’re emphatic and excited and happy!

It’s a wonderful thing to watch the transformation that someone goes through when they go from having a conversation with you about the weather, to talking about what they’re passionate about.

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
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:
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Is this philanthropy?

I think my fellow fundraisers would agree that our feeling about philanthropy isn’t that you should try to give, give, and give to every organization that approaches you. In fact, my fellow fundraisers would probably say, “JUST SUPPORT OUR ORGANIZATION!” But I digress…

I just read a great piece by Julie Blais Comeau (a.k.a. @EtiquetteJulie) in the Huffington Post, entitled: “Sticky Situations: Saying No to Charity”. Thank you to my sister @arundelgibson for tweeting about this article.

In @EtiquetteJulie’s piece, she talks about the steady flow of requests for donations in her workplace – one colleague is doing a run for the cure, another has a child whose school is selling chocolate bars to fundraise… the list goes on. I’m sure this has happened to you, or something similar. Julie discusses appropriate ways to say “no” to your coworkers when this occurs, all of which are very tactful and helpful.

This article made me think about something I once heard James Fleck, Canadian businessman and philanthropist, say:

Philanthropy is balancing your passion and your resources.

Would you consider it philanthropy if you dropped a loonie into one of those Salvation Army collection boxes? Would you consider it philanthropy if you gave a homeless person your spare change? I’m not saying it isn’t helpful or worthwhile to do this, but I’m asking:

Is this philanthropy???

My thought is that I’d rather make one meaningful contribution per year to an organization that I feel passionately about, and that I want to invest in.

What do you think? Please comment here with your thoughts, ideas, and musings.

OR, even better, email me at maeve@whatgivesphilanthropy.com to discuss getting involved with What Gives??? as a guest blogger.  I’d love to have you on board!


Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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