What if we are the problem?

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On Monday, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Evelyne Guindon, CEO of Cuso International. I was recording a podcast for Blakely and Evelyne was my interviewee this time around. (Stay tuned for the podcast, by the way!)

Evelyne said something that really resonated with me. She referred to the beneficiaries of their work as “assets”.

Assets.

I absolutely loved that.

Here’s an example: one of Cuso’s focus areas is Livelihood, including the development and financing of enterprises for individuals living in poverty. So if a young woman has the spirit of entrepreneurship and wants to start her own business, Cuso’s programs – supported by donors – can help.

But this young woman isn’t the beneficiary of donor support; she is an asset that’s been tapped into through donor support.

It’s like she’s a natural resource that just hadn’t been discovered yet. I find that it’s a much more empowering way of talking about it.

Besides just loving the way Evelyne spoke about assets, it made me pause and think about the language we use as fundraisers and whether the gap between where we are and what we really want to accomplish is created by ourselves.

I once heard someone say that donors don’t give to charities that have needs, they give to charities that meet needs.

I also often think about the ripple effect millennials have had on the world of charitable giving. No I don’t have the silver bullet to ignite millennial giving, but I do know this group is skeptical about where their money goes when they give, and therefore when they do give, they expect to see a return on their investment, shall we say.

Some donors have always been like that, but I believe millennials as a group really do think this way, and that’s spread to more demographic donor groups over time.

So as fundraisers, if we don’t adapt to be seen in that lens donors are now looking through, we won’t accomplish our big goals.

This is all to say that donors are – and have for a while – thinking differently about their giving. And like Evelyne, we need to change the way we’re talking about our work and our “beneficiaries” to meet donors where they are, and inspire them more than ever before.

Food for thought…

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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.

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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

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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