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    Disrupt Philanthropy through Transformational Leadership: Key Learnings from AFP Congress 2018, Part 2 of 2

    By John Paul de Silva – originally published on the Social Focus Consulting blog.


    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.



    1. Self Awareness

    To demonstrate self awareness, Kishshana asked us to raise our hands based on a series of questions that asked how well we felt we were performing in the workplace. It seemed like everyone felt that they could be doing better professionally, but Kishshana reminded us that we are all “Rock Stars” and to develop our EI, we needed to recognize and apply our strengths.

    Tycely Williams, VP of Development for YWCA USA, echoed her sentiments, telling us that we should be introspective in order to disrupt philanthropy. She added that if we recognize that we have power and privilege, that we should be using these strengths to make a difference and create impact. While recognizing our strengths are important, it’s also important to recognize the emotions that make us feel down. Ms. Palmer adds that these emotions can be difficult to talk about in the workplace as it feels too personal, however this is necessary for the development of EI.

    the Four Domains of Emotional Intelligence, from Kishshana Palmer


    2. Self Management

    Self management is another important aspect of emotional intelligence, with self care, in particular, brought up several times at Congress. Self care is especially important in the social sector, according to Gryphon Fundraising‘s Sam Laprade who says “we work in a sector where we change lives and save lives but are we taking care of our own lives?” Some people may feel guilty about looking after themselves when there’s so much good left to do in the world, but Simon Scriver, of ChangeFundraising, reminds us that it’s perfectly fine, “Sometimes you just need to look after yourself and that is absolutely okay.”

    One way to look after yourself is to make a “hug folder“, “a place where you collect all of the nice cards & feedback people have given you so you can look at it when you need a pick-me-up” as suggested by Kimberley MacKenzie. Sam suggests another way to look after yourself is to stop comparing yourself to others, “we all feel like imposters at times. Don’t compare the way you feel on the inside with how others look on the outside.”



    3. Social Awareness

    Once you’ve developed good self awareness and self management, you’re more equipped to develop the next domain of EI, social awareness. A big part of social awareness, and building sincere rapport with donors and other allies, is empathy, according to Marcy Heim. She adds, “mirror the language of the donor. It’s not about me, it’s about the donor.”

    Tycely agrees, “Listen to other people’s concerns. Don’t dismiss them.” The “Fundraising, Feminism, & Disruption” panel (KabirLockeLoveSorum) adds that to be an ally, “ask questions about other people’s opinions. Stop assuming. Be willing to stand behind and amplify someone else’s voice- giving them a stage.”

    Cindy Wagman, reminding us to leverage the networks of major gift donors


    4. Relationship Management

    Social awareness helps you develop and manage relationships more effectively, which is critical to fundraising. One way of managing relationships is mixing potential donors and existing donors at your charity’s next event, according to Aimée Lindenberger, Chief Engagement Officer at Refocus Communications & Fundraising. “Existing donors are likely the best spokespeople one can have!”, she proclaims. The Good Partnership‘s Cindy Wagman adds, “leverage the networks of your major gift donors for more funds. They share the same values.”

    Similarly, managing relationships with volunteers is just as important to fundraising. ViTreo Group‘s Scott Decksheimer says fundraising “is about relationships & getting the volunteers involved in building connections.” The speakers (Bannon Waterman and Storey) from KCI Philanthropy have seen in this action with a CAMH Foundation campaign that “used volunteers to lend their name and leverage their network for success. Volunteers are opening doors to fundraising campaign prospects.”

    Celeste Bannon Waterman, illustrating how volunteers can help fundraise in campaigns


    Niambi Martin-John, Director Of Fund Development at Diabetes Canada, adds, “Find your army, a group of people that are industry leaders and who you can call on. These are your allies!” Lastly, don’t forget the importance of managing relationships within your organization. “Build lateral relationships across your organization to get good stories and build authenticity”, according to the speakers from Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto.

    Transformational leadership is one way for people to facilitate innovation and disruption in the philanthropic sector. How else can we do it? Comment below or message me. Thanks for reading and see ya’ll at AFP Fundraising Day 2019!