The 5 Most Interesting Things I Learned on Day 1 of #AGCongress14

 

the 5 most interesting things I learned on day 1 of #AGCongress14

Ideally I would save this blog post for next week, but my sanity relies on routine, so I’ll stick with my regularly scheduled “every other Friday at 10:00 a.m.”.

What’s today’s post about? Well, right at this very moment I am in a session called “Picasso & Edison: Learn how to be both an artist and scientist in today’s fundraising world”, led by Samantha Laprade, CFRE (a.k.a. @GryphonReport). No, I am not blogging in front of her rather than paying attention to her session! I am writing this post from the comfort of my hotel room in Toronto on Thursday at 5:00 pm. I have just attended Day 1 of the 2014 Canadian Higher Education Annual Giving Congress in Toronto a.k.a. #AGCongress14. Yes, it’s me and dozens of other Annual Giving nerds talking about what we do and how we can be excellent at it. I’m in heaven!

So on that note, today’s post is the five most interesting things I learned yesterday on Day 1 of Congress. Here goes…

  1. STOP! Be stupidly creative. The very inspiring Joel Faflak of Western University started the day off by telling us to stop doing what you’re doing and do something mindlessly creative. Draw, see a musical, do something! Our creativity is being threatened by the business of our every day work, but we can’t stop cultivating it.
  2. Don’t solicit young alumni with the traditional academic segmentation. My friend Ryan Brejak of the University of Guelph (and a guest blogger for this site) delivered a great session on young alumni giving and stressed that millennials need to be segmented differently rather than by their faculty. Segment them by the non-academic affinities they have.
  3. Why would they care? I attended a panel about “How to Write for Development” and asked them what’s more important in a fundraising letter, to emphasize need or success. Chuck Chan of University of Toronto replied that it’s most important to focus on why the reader would care about this. Would they care about a dilapidated building, or would they care about what’s going to happen in a new one?
  4. There are three types of donors. I attended my mentor Paul Nazareth‘s session about planned giving and he outlined three types of donors: (1) the DNA donor, where giving is in their DNA, and so is your organization; (2) the academic, who values your institution because of how they turned what they learned into success; (3) and the trouble makers and weirdos who had a great time at your institution who will give back because of their experiences.
  5. Everyone should be an annual fund prospect all the time. The last session of the day was led by two fundraising powerhouses: Lorna SomersBob Burdenski. They talked about the worlds of major giving and annual giving colliding, and Lorna stressed that major gift prospects/donors should never be taken out of annual solicitations. They should always receive the calls, direct mailings, etc. and major gifts should “opt out” of this if really necessary, whereas the default will be that they’re solicited annually.

What a great day Day 1 was. I bet I’m already energized by Day 2 and it’s only 10:00 a.m.

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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 educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: The Story of NationWares

You all know by now that I got my start in fundraising in the Annual Giving Call Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University, and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Phonathon programs.  One of the reasons why I loved that experience so much was meeting all the people I did; my fellow supervisors, full-time professional fundraisers working in Annual Giving and adjacent departments, and – most of all – the student callers.  Amie Mariana Sider is one of those former callers who I feel truly proud to know.  Though I haven’t seen her in a while, I’ve been able to keep up-to-date on her life through social media, and it occurred to me one day that she’d be a fantastic guest blogger for What Gives.  When I reached out to her she generously accepted my invitation, and I am so excited and proud to share Amie’s guest post below.  Be inspired, excited, and spurred to action by Amie’s words.  Enjoy!!!

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Disclaimer: Brace yourselves readers, this is gonna be a long one. I’ve always been a rambler, but I think for this post it’s totally necessary for you to understand my context, background, and reason for doing what I do.  Hopefully it can encourage and inspire you to join in, or simply rekindle your love of giving and doing good.

My name is Amie Mariana Sider and for some crazy reason I’m one of those 25 year old kids who somehow ended up landing their dream job at an absurdly young age with relatively no official experience. What turned out to be a huge qualifier was my unofficial expertise that came to me by growing up among a family of do-gooders, world changers, humanitarians, and international development gurus. At the age of 10 I had already traveled to more suffering and impoverished nations than fancy beach resorts. I forgot to mention that I was also born in an extremely remote and impoverished area of Guatemala and was blessed enough to escape the cycle of poverty by being adopted into an incredibly loving Canadian home.

Since the delicate age of 5, I have vocalized my determination and passion to truly change the world and end the cycle of poverty for those who deserve a chance to escape it just like I did. From then on I volunteered, participated in countless fundraisers, donated savings from my piggy bank, and searched for the best way that I could to bring about change for the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable people. 15 years later during my student career at Wilfrid Laurier University, NationWares was born.

As a Sociology and Global Studies major, I was determined to come up with some revolutionary idea to eradicate poverty. I’ve always understood charity and charity/development work, but was always drawn to the overwhelming success of the business industry. Let’s be honest here, I was a sociology major because math and numbers terrified me and I vowed to my grade 10 math teacher who promised not to fail me if I agreed to never set foot in another math course again in my entire life… which brings me to my third year global studies course.

The Global Studies department created a program called the Global Studies Experience; it was through this mandatory program that I was personally assigned a placement with a development agency. The agency was directed to give me a mandate to fulfill as a lowly summer intern who had yet to be jaded and discouraged by charity, the international development system, and of course organizational bureaucracy. Their mandate for my summer work involved none other than numbers, data collection, and of course fundraising… basically everything related to numbers and financial accountability that terrified me. To put the cherry on top of it all, they wanted me to target and grow financial resources from “young people”. I thought for sure that I was way over my head!

That summer I traveled to Ethiopia to visit some incredible programs in the area of life skills, vocational training, and income generation. I was so encouraged to see men and women become self-sufficient through these programs and instantly wanted to integrate this model into my summer project. At the time I knew that child sponsorship programs were becoming a model of the past for the younger giving generation, donors of all ages were also becoming more and more skeptical, and in tough economic times the average person looks out for their own interests. Most young people may find it difficult to part with their cash for donation purposes, especially when they feel they won’t receive anything tangible from their gift. I’ve always had a passion for fashion, beauty, and accessories, which led me to combine life skills, income generation, and the creation and distribution of ethical fashion and accessories. You can take a look at one of my first projects in the video below. It features a couple who have been able to change their economic situation and support their family by making scarves to be sold through NationWares in North America as they also produce local traditional clothing to be sold in their own community.

NationWares – Scarf Production from bottledmedia on Vimeo.

Let’s skip ahead 5 years. To say that I learned a ton during the first 4 years of operating NationWares would be an understatement. I tested out the charity model to find that it simply wasn’t enough. It needed to be set firm on a foundation of business and since I have a love/hate relationship with business I needed NationWares not to focus on profit and numbers in a self-interested way, but take the whole triple bottom line concept of people, planet, profit, and push it further. That’s why today NationWares is a social enterprise (a business that exists to serve a social cause) that is breaking the cycle of poverty for multiply marginalized people around the world who have been impacted not only by poverty, but also disability, HIV/AIDS, and other factors that lead to marginalization and vulnerability.

I built NationWares to use fashion as a vehicle to drive sustainable employment for over 2,000 current beneficiaries in 10 different countries as they create ethical products that positively impact their society, the economy, and the environment as we expand their market and share their products with North Americans. Our programs go beyond fashion and fair trade as we provide vocational training, creative education, and mentorship resources through the NationWares International Foundation to ensure sustainability and overall success. By purchasing any of our unique products, our customers transform the lives of those deemed the most marginalized and help us create recognized business people, local heroes, and community leaders.

That’s my personal and NationWares journey as a young entrepreneur in a nutshell. To those who find themselves wanting their dream job in the field of giving and doing good I can’t stress the importance of volunteerism and risk taking. The most rewarding jobs don’t always have the most rewarding salaries (or may not even come with a salary at all). Be ready to innovate, get messy, and challenge the system. To all the givers out there, I encourage each of you to give in whatever capacity you can. Any form of giving is great! If you’re a supporter of charity, continue to support charity. If charity doesn’t sit well with you, don’t use that as an excuse not to give; find something you believe in. Businesses usually get a bad reputation but a lot of them are becoming more concerned with the planet and its people under the umbrella of social responsibility. NationWares profits bring sustainable change and help keep the cycle of employment moving. Find companies like us that use their products and profits to do good things and invest in the greater good for all people and societies around the world.

Time to get giving!

 

Written by Amie Mariana Sider
You can connect with Amie via:
Twitter
 & you can stay updated on NationWares via:
Web | Twitter | Facebook

Why don’t people give???

I participated recently in an “interview” with an individual who is working to develop a social media strategy for the Development & Alumni Relations department at a higher-ed institution.  His intention was to get my input on what alumni want from their alma mater and how that might be provided through social media.  I was pleased when alumni giving made its way into the conversation and intrigued by his approach to the topic; he asked me, “Why don’t alumni give???” What a great question!  And one that definitely applies to all forms of fundraising – not just educational.  There are, of course, a myriad of reasons people don’t give.  Drawing once again from my experience as an Annual Giving phonathon caller, I heard reasons including a negative experience at the university, still paying off student loans, big transitions in life with big costs attached (getting married, buying a house, starting a family), and sometimes a plain old “not interested”. But then I thought, “Why DO people give?”  And as any good fundraiser knows, the #1 reason people give is … say it with me … because they are asked!!!  Yes, it’s often that simple!  So, would that mean that the opposite is true???  Do people NOT give because they’re NOT asked?  Well, let me say this, rarely do fundraisers hear from their prospects that they’re not being asked enough… So, what is it?  Perhaps people don’t give because they’re not asked right. What do I mean by that?  Is it that best practice fundraising approaches should be thrown out the window?  Not at all!  My thought is that we’re doing a great job except that we’re not giving our prospects enough info on HOW to give.  We’re telling them who to give to (our organization), when to give (now), why to give, what amount to give, where to designate, but are we giving them the right options at that point on HOW to make their gift?  And I’m not talking about which credit card to donate with… It’s my belief that many people don’t give because (a) they think only enormous major gifts matter and (b) they don’t know their options.  For example, I donate regularly to four causes, and in all four cases I’m a monthly donor.  Are we as fundraisers making options like monthly giving clear when we make our ask?  This is just one example, of course, but I think it’s part of a key “toolkit” we ought to be sharing.  A $240 gift may seem intimidating, but $20/month might not… So I told this individual I had my social media interview with that sharing quick updates on Facebook and Twitter, not asking for donations but informing people on how to make them, could be a potential way of engaging more alumni in giving… I guess we’ll see if it works! Food for thought… Why do YOU think people don’t 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.

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

Donor Fatigue

As you may know, I got my start in fundraising with a job as a student caller at Wilfrid Laurier University, calling alumni of the school as well as parents of current students, sharing updates and asking for their financial support.  Many friends of mine would comment on how tough it must be to make those “cold calls” to alumni, but I always replied saying, “They’re not cold calls, they’re warm calls”.  I don’t know where I’d picked up that term, and you could call it kind of corny, but it seemed applicable.  Calling alumni or parents was never cold, because at the very least – whether they were an enthusiastic supporter or not – they had some connection to the institution. I’m thinking about this because I recently read an article from The Globe & Mail entitled “Toronto hospitals are about to find out just how deep donors’ pockets are”.  The article begins by telling the story of Harvey Walker.  In short, Mr. Walker’s wife, Joan, died of pancreatic cancer and he wanted to find a way to honour her memory.  He decided the most fitting tribute would be to donate $100,000 in her name to the Scarborough Hospital, which provided compassion and care to Joan and her family.  According to the article: “Two years later, Mr. Walker has become something of a darling on the mailing lists of hospital foundations across the city.  Appeals for money arrive in his mailbox constantly.  He’s never donated to most of the hospitals asking for his cash and doesn’t even know how they got his name.” As someone who has only worked in educational fundraising thus far, this is a very interesting concept to me – contacting people who don’t have a clear connection to the institution I work for.  I’ve been to a few prospect research workshops where so much discussion surrounds making a prospect list based on other institutions’/organizations’ annual reports (for example), and for a while I didn’t even understand why.  It’s not as if I’m opposed to this because I know other organizations work differently, but when this article brought up the idea of “donor fatigue”, I could understand where that stems from. “But what about the risks? Hospital fundraising campaigns have become an incessant year-long event with appeals coming in the mail, online, on the radio and TV. Yet, as the fundraising pitches become increasingly enormous in size and scope, so too grows the worry that potential donors are beginning to tune out.” My point is not that one type of institution is better than the other, not at all.  It’s just interesting where our prospects come from and how that differs from organization to organization.  The truth is, too, that many of a school’s most generous donors are also turning up on other organizations’ – including hospitals’ – lists and so despite having a clear, personal connection to their alma mater, “donor fatigue” is still a concern. What are your thoughts? How do we combat donor fatigue???

 

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:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

Introduction

Welcome to What Gives???: a blog dedicated to topics surrounding fundraising, philanthropy, charities, the not-for-profit sector, who gives, why give…

What gives???

I thought I’d use my first post to introduce myself – my name is Maeve and I identify as a fundraiser. I say “identify” because my job title is not “Fundraiser”, nor is that all I do, but that’s who I am and that’s what I love to do – fundraising! I currently work in educational fundraising, combined with a healthy dose of alumni relations in my portfolio, and as such, quite a bit of event planning as well.

I’ve been in fundraising now for nearly five years, give or take a few months. I started out in a university phonathon program as a student caller. What began as a means for some extra cash transformed into a full-blown passion. After raising over $7,000 for Annual Giving as a caller, I was hooked, and was then promoted to a supervisory position. I held that position for over three years; I trained callers, coached callers, and motivated callers. I calculated caller statistics, helped define goals, and advised callers on how to improve. I documented all supervisory procedures to promote succession planning and helped bring in a new group of supervisors. I lived and breathed the university phonathon, and also tried to earn my undergraduate degree when I wasn’t in the call centre. Then I graduated, and it was time to move on to the real world.

As I said, I still work in educational fundraising, but now in an independent school instead of a university. Moreover, I’m working less so in annual giving and more in supporting a capital campaign. That said, in a small shop like this, I get to do a little of everything… reunion giving, alumni relations, endowment reporting, alumni communications, major giving… the list goes on!

The fact is — I love fundraising! I’m fascinated by the psychology of it, I’m energized by the passion involved in the field, and I’m excited to continue on in my career, learning more and more as I go.

SO – welcome to “What Gives???”, thanks for reading my first post, and please stay tuned for more!!!

 

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:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email