AFP Toronto’s Congress was an empowering and highly personal experience that is changing my outlook towards the fundraising sector. But it didn’t start off that way.
It started with my arms crossed against my chest and my mouth drawn tightly into a straight line. It was a frown to be honest, but it could have been mistaken for concentration.
Hadiya Roderique was giving the first plenary speech at Congress, Canada’s premiere educational forum for fundraisers. Ms. Roderique’s experience as a black lawyer on Bay Street made front page news of the Globe and Mail last fall, and here, her powerful and informed speech tackled the racism and exclusion present in Canada’s corporate culture. Her observations, statistics and personal experience brought the conference’s theme, “Disrupt Philanthropy” sharply into focus. It showed that philanthropic culture in Canada was not immune to the “-isms” that affect other sectors. For me it touched a nerve that I was used to covering up.
“Why is she talking about this?” I thought. “We already know this! Just deal with it and move on!”
Well, that’s exactly what she was doing. Head on. I too am a black woman. I am a fundraiser working in Ottawa since 2005. I know what it feels like to be the only person of colour in a crowded room. But I don’t talk about it. Instead I’ve gotten used to the discomfort and moved on. But am I moving? Really?
Vanity A La Mode, in front of podium, disrupting philanthropy in all the right ways
In my previous article on AFP Congress 2018, we explored how charities can reverse declining revenues by delighting donors, more specifically, by personalizing communications, running experiential events, and designing frictionless webpages. Ultimately, it’s people that drive and nurture such decisions, but how do we facilitate this kind of innovation and disruption? We do it through transformational leadership which requires introspection followed by extrospection.
Kishshana Palmer, presenting on transformational leadership and emotional intelligence
In Kishshana Palmer‘s session, she focused on emotional intelligence (EI) and its ability to help us motivate, inspire, boost, and push others, in turn, helping us become transformational leaders. According to Ms. Palmer, EI can be broken down into four domains or competencies: self awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management. Although the framework is centred around emotions, I believe it’s a good general framework for all contributing aspects of transformational fundraising leadership. Read more »
Why do we need to disrupt this sector?Caroline Riseboro, plenary speaker and President and CEO of Plan Canada, summed it up nicely, “A hyper-focus on major gifts is disguising the problem that we have an erosion of donors in the Canadian market. Philanthropy as a whole is on a decline.” And it’s no wonder given the challenge to get people’s attention, nevermind donations. We see 10,000 marketing messages a day while having an eight second attention span, according to Vanessa Landry, Director of Client Services at Fundraising Direct. That’s why we need disruption. We need new ideas, new ways of doing things, to advance the sector and keep being socially impactful.
Then, how do we become disruptive? We do it by delighting donors and through leadership. Delighting donors involves giving them an experience they can’t stop talking about, according to Jen Love, Partner at Agents of Good. When donors can’t stop talking about a positive experience, that leads to engagement, repeat donations, referrals to others, and ultimately growth for charities.
This first part of a two-part blog will cover how to delight donors. Based on my takeaways from attending some of the sessions and engaging with the #AFPCongress2018 feed, there are three main opportunities to delight donors: personalized communications, experiential events, and frictionless webpage design. Read more »
For many nonprofits, ‘marketing’ has been — and remains — a support tool for fundraising; its purpose, mainly to serve as a medium to get the fundraising message out there to as many prospective donors as possible, via social media or otherwise. But this limited use fails to capitalize on the opportunity of marketing. For nonprofits making more robust use of marketing and communications, the act of ‘marketing’ becomes everything from a branding exercise to a recruitment tool, to a way to connect with key stakeholders, to community engagement, to profile building, to storytelling.
But it’s that last, storytelling, that sits at the core of good marketing. No matter what message your organization is looking to put out into the world, the story you tell is the heart of how you express the need of your population, how you connect with your community of supporters, and how you show the continuous positive impact your organization has. The question is, how do you tell that story well?
The thing is, ‘telling a story well’ encompasses more than simply telling a good story that (hopefully) raises fundraising dollars. Why? Because every charitable organization owes a duty of care to the population they serve that goes beyond the good work provided.
This, how to market, advertise, or tell a nonprofit story well, has been a topic of much debate. While, broadly, we can agree that tapping into empathy and, from that, compassion, is a key component of generating giving behaviour through storytelling, the real question is how do we get there. One common way is the use of ‘shock’ campaigns depicting imagery of people in desperate circumstances. Yet this strategy has been used so frequently that it has almost become a cliché, while simultaneously becoming an unfortunate standard by which many fundraising campaigns are set, particularly those for international aid (think your classic imagery of impoverished, starving Africa). While, even today, these shock campaigns — often more harshly labeled ‘poverty porn’ — can undoubtedly be effective in soliciting short-term donations, the problems with this approach are multifold. Read more »
With AFP Congress only a few weeks away, I’m starting to get excited to reconnect with my fundraising friends, meet some new contacts, and learn a few tips and tricks to help me excel in my role. While some people find conferences overwhelming (they are), with a little preparation, they can be very rewarding. Here’s what I like to do in order to maximize my Congress experience.
Whether you’re planning to meet specific people or just chatting with the person beside you at lunch, Congress is the perfect opportunity to connect with other great minds in our sector. I like to have a couple of questions prepared, so I don’t feel like a robot asking everyone I meet the same thing. It’s okay to write down some notes, especially if there is a key person you’d like to chat with. I also like to connect with new contacts on LinkedIn right away. It’s a great platform to grow your network and communicate with like-minded professionals in the industry. Try to send a personal message noting where you met.
This can be a hard one for all of us, especially when there is temptation to check your email constantly throughout the day. Since I’ve made the commitment to attend Congress and learn something new, I do my best to focus my attention on the session content instead of worrying what’s going on back at the office. I like to check my email in-between sessions, so not to be distracted from an interesting presentation or discussion. I use my out of office message to let people know that I’m at a conference learning something new that will help make me better at my job.