Authentic Fundraising: A love story

I fell in love for the first time in grade four. David was in grade five. My house was on 4th avenue at the top of the hill on the edge of a town called Cranbrook. My parents bought it for the spectacular view of the Rocky mountain range. There were floor to ceiling windows in every room. Wherever you looked the vista of the mountains was breathtaking. I didn’t care about the mountains though, because David’s house was at the bottom of the hill. About six times a day I walked past David’s house with my best friend Lisa. Lisa lived on the same street as David. Everyday – even in the middle of a rocky mountain winter – I would walk past David’s house to Lisa’s house. Pick Lisa up. Walk back past David’s house. Go to the convenience store. Buy a hot chocolate. Walk back past David’s house again. Drop of Lisa. Finally, walk back past David’s house, one last time. Then home, back up the hill to my house. During the walks we could often catch a glimpse of David watching TV. On a really good day he might be in his front yard and we would get to say hello. In grade six I got a new pair of rainbow jeans and I wore them everyday. David told me that they made my “butt” look good. By grade ten Lisa and I were walking four miles to the hockey games on Friday night. David was the captain of the hockey team. Everything I did, I did for him. I thought about him when I got ready for school. I thought about him all day at school. At the end of the day when I walked home I was constantly looking over my shoulder to see if he was walking home too. In evenings when I did the dishes, I could sometimes catch a glimpse of David hanging his hockey equipment in the backyard. When no one was home I bounced around the house singing to Air Supply’s“All out of love”, which I hoped he could hear down the hill.  I was so lost without him! My love affair with David lasted all through grade school and into high school. Thirty years later I tried to find him on Facebook because I wanted his permission to share this story at a fundraising conference. Sadly, I found his obituary. David had died at a very young age due to ALS. Yes – I cried. I still love him. It makes me sad to think that he is gone. He never knew how I felt. I still think about what it would have been like to kiss...

Read More

Authentic Fundraising: Legacies (Part One)

In 2010 I worked as Director of Development for an environmental charity called Ontario Nature. We had just finished a revitalization of our legacy program. This involved some renewed marketing materials, a few financial planning events and a wildly successful survey to our most loyal donors. We now had almost 70 confirmed legators. These are people who had told us that they intended to leave a bequest to our organization in their will. I knew that just three of those pledges totalled an expected 2.5 million dollars – so we anticipated the entire value of all of these relationships would be significantly more than that. We all know that most donors update or change their will before they go on vacation and within just a year or two of their death. Now that we had secured millions of dollars in expectancies, my job was to figure out how to keep them. So I started to do what many of us in smaller organizations do. I added our legators to the major donor stewardship program. That major donor program was ROCKING. We had just finished a capital campaign to purchase some land and people were excited. We were having parties, going on hikes and having more parties and going on more hikes. Each time we had an event I would phone our legators and make sure they knew that we would love to see them there. The realization that I had made a mistake happened during a phone call a donor who was incredibly candid. She loved nature, went on many outings with the organization when she was younger. She told me she was now at an age where she hardly ever left her house.  She couldn’t drive, she needed to be near a toilet, she found stairs difficult to manage and regrettably she wanted to stop receiving invitations to events she could not attend. It was during that phone call that I realized, every time I was inviting her to come to an event or go on a hike, she felt sad. She loved us so much, and we were – I was making her feel sad and old and isolated. Exactly the opposite of my intention. It became clear that our legators, needed to be treated differently than our major donors. I just wasn’t sure how to do it. Later that summer, all of the staff were siting down together outside in a big tent. It was a warm night with the sound of crickets and really loud bull frogs in the background. We had just hosted about 100 people in nature workshops and a dinner. Sitting there, I started to feel a little melancholy. I was sad...

Read More

What kind of a world do you want to live in? A story about a trip to the grocery store.

This post originally appeared in Charity Info’s eNEWS on December 12, 2014 Last Thursday night it was snowing pretty heavily. Begrudgingly, I had to stop and pick up a few groceries on the way home. As I rushed into the store to get out of the cold I saw a family doing the same. The mother was putting on a happy face, the tween looked miserable, as kids that age tend to, and the toddler and baby were a bit dishevelled and dazed. The baby’s clothes were soaked through, obviously from a leaky diaper. None of them had any coats on. It was a shocking sight and I politely tried not to stare as I suggested to the mother that a grocery cart from inside might not be as cold for her children to sit in. While shopping I crossed paths with that family several times. Each time we met I observed something different: The baby was relieved of her wet clothes and given a dry diaper – just a diaper – now she was naked. I heard the adolescent asking for chips and mother saying she didn’t know if they had enough money. Another woman had entered the scene and seemed to be providing assistance. As I started checking out I reflected on my shopping choices. Why did I buy THREE bags of chips if I was intending on starting another diet? Should I really get an $18.00 bottle of Canadian maple syrup that I had no immediate plans to use? AND what on earth could I do to help that naked baby? After all it was the week of Giving Tuesday and in spite of all the prompts for me to donate I had not been motivated to give anything…until I saw raw need right in front of me. “Could I please get a gift card as well?” I asked the cashier. Over my shoulder people were circling like hawks and staring at a woman with three cold tired children, one new, dry set of pyjamas and a small pile of groceries – no chips. The store was tense. Everyone was looking away, pretending not to see what was obvious. When I finished my shopping I bashfully cut across onlookers and approached the family. “I hope you don’t mind,” I said to the mother as I met her gaze head on “I wanted to buy you a gift card.” Her response: “Are you just…are you just…” (This is where I thought she would punch me.) “Are you just so nice? “ She quickly told me that her family had fled their home five hours north and just arrived in our town with only the clothes on their backs....

Read More

The Answer is 42! – Or Is It?

At breakfast today we were talking about one of our favourite family books, “A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. In this book the answer to life, the universe and everything turns out to be 42. There is one small problem though: no one knows what the ultimate question is. Since early October fundraisers all around the world seem to be looking for the ultimate answer for how to deal with the current economic crisis. Many consultants have been very accommodating. We have all received a wide range of very good free advice. There is this great blog keeping its finger on the pulse and uniting us globally in a conversation. Many consultancy firms are working hard to stay in front of us and provide what seems like almost weekly updates – filling up our in box with all sorts of useful information. Or is it? I wonder how useful it is for fundraisers to be bombarded with daily almost hourly messages about the fact we are in a very serious economic crisis and we should be very worried? Let’s not get too distracted by all these messages about the economy. The very basics of good fundraising still apply. The most important of which is probably: DON”T PANIC! Another HGTGism but also point number one in the most recent and probably the best and most useful articles I have read on the subject of Fundraising in Tough Economic Times. In this paper Mal Warwick and Dan Doyle offer different strategies and choices for us to consider. Most of it is just common sense and good business and should be applied year round. The truth is we don’t have control of this situation, nor have we seen it before. This isn’t a natural disaster or terrorist attacks. People aren’t dying by the hundred’s, they are loosing investments, houses and jobs. We can’t predict what might happen with our charity. Each one of our donors will be impacted differently. Staying in touch with them and providing excellent service is really just good fundraising at any time. Like our donors we are all different, some of us have reserves, some don’t. Some have a solid monthly giving program some of us don’t. Some of us are dependant on corporate support and events, some of us have mature legacy programs in place. How you respond will ultimately depend on what the “Ultimate Question” is for your charity. So long and thanks for all the fish… Thank you for spending time here. Share the...

Read More

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid

Hello, I realize I should probably wait at least 24 hours before posting another blog. I think that is how this is suppose to work. I can’t resist though, be sure to read the post on SOFII from yesterday (or you could visit Sean’s blog because apparently we are talking about the same thing!) People are asking me what I think about Canadian Politics at the moment.For the 50% of you who read this who aren’t from Canada you should know things are a bit of a mess here right now. I work with a lot of politicians, have managed to raise money in this job during a total of 5 elections and government matches a lot of the private money we raise, so it is a little dangerous for me to make my position public. Fortunately, I don’t think any of them are reading this blog and it is mine, so here goes: I don’t care anymore! I want a government that can lead. After three dysfunctional minority governments we have reached the depths of despair. Something really big needs to happen to get us out of this horrid cycle. I was hoping it would be the Govenor General – apparently not. Today in our national newspaper The Globe and Mail, Rick Mercer has not disappointed. We do need to be taken over by aliens Rick – that is probably the only thing big enough to stop this mess. Read Rick’s great article NOW! Thank you for spending time here. Share the...

Read More

Who Needs a Museum of Fundraising Anyway?

Hello, Many of you have heard of SOFII and have even registered. I’m an early adopter. Working in a small organization SOFII has proven to be an invaluable resource. We use it. We love it. We talk about it. Ken B and I (not Branagh the other one)have had discussions about whether SOFII is a museum of fundraising or a database of best practice that can be pinched and used to help people like me. I argue that museums are dark, dusty, old, irrelevant and places for people who have run out of things to do. Fundraisers live in a fast paced world and need, new, relevant, tested, examples of best practice. During my reading time this morning all the newspapers were saying the same thing (Canadian Government is in chaos did you know?) so I thought I’d poke around SOFII a bit with my coffee. I discovered an article “Dislocation, dislocation” by George Smith. I don’t know George and wouldn’t dare say he should be in a museum, but I’m guessing he has been around awhile. The essay is something to be savoured, read slowly – with a dictionary, reflected on and thought about. It is difficult to decide what to quote because every word has a purpose and is important. George says things like: “This used to be such a simple business. Your communications always sought to explain a need, to make the point that we privileged people should help less privileged people. If you were healthy, well-fed, well-housed, then do something for cancer patients, the hungry, the homeless. Say please. Say thank you. Treat people as adults. Give them a sense of achievement. Such simplicities, though they have underpinned do-gooding for centuries, now fall foul of the new need for pomposity and the new and cerebrally-terrifying craving for conformity – a world in which the only prizes will go to those who look, sound and act familiar. You only have to look at your television schedules to see how far and how quickly we have tumbled into this world. Can you see any programme there tonight that is not a derivative of something you have seen before?” That is briliant! The difference between the two paragraphs is case and point really. I read it twice and am still thinking about it hours later. Spending time reading this essay left me richer for having had the experience. Sort of like how you feel after going to a museum! So if you have registered for SOFII surfed around once and moved on I encourage you to take a slow stroll through the website again this weekend. Use it, think about it, talk about it and contribute to it....

Read More