A fundraising checklist: what Italian fundraisers look like?

For sure, you would be able to answer this if you had participated at the 5th Italian “Festival del Fundraising” during the second week of May 2012. Three days, around 600 fundraisers, more than 20 sponsors and a lot of sun. The annual meeting is held at Castrocaro, a little town located next to Bologna, strategically between Roma and Milano.

Many, many, many sessions and activities and no time to rest if you came like many of us to learn by sharing. So even though you are in an historical 4-star hotel and have free access to thermal facilities, there is little chance for you to come back home without a huge need to rest. I am sure that every attendee will also have taken back a huge checklist full of technics to explore or to test: online, offline, integration of channels, new services and many ideas from abroad considering the number of foreign speakers that joined the event.

So let me try to review what are the trends that emerged without being too descriptive…let’s hope the other 599 people will write comments and identify their best moments. So here we go:

What is the difference between an Italian Fundraiser and a Fundraiser?
For the moment none. There is no statistics of how many of us are working in the country to fund causes. But considering the total Italian population declares to be a donor, you can bet that Italian fundraisers are everywhere in the country.

To bring the spotlights on our profession, the event organizers decided to create the first “Italian Fundraising Award”. But still, fundraisers from Italy desperately need to organize in order to unify, in order to be able to lobby the government, fiscal authorities, cellular phone providers …

Italy, the most beautiful country…true for fundraising?
How is the best way to share the local skills? Long workshop (until 3 hours) are always a good way, but to me the best sessions were short ones of 30 minutes where colleagues had to focus on practicalities of one mailing, one campaign, one idea. You just have to be to the point when given so little time.

The sessions and the discussions in the corridors covered the main highlights of our particular market. For example, the increase of recruitment costs both online and offline. The uncertain economic future of the whole country, seem to make donors more cautious in the last 3 quarters. No good news either at the horizon about the postal fees that increased by 500% in 2010. No certainty either on “5permille” (a part of the taxes that Italians can choose to give to a charity when filling out their tax form).

The good news is that all these changes requires the NGOs to adapt and to review a part of their fundraising programs in depth. That is why I think Internet and Digital platforms seemed to get much of the attention when looking for innovation.

Social networks on the other hand are still to be discovered by Italian fundraisers…for example, only a few fundraisers tweeted during the festival (#FFR12), even though a specific tweet corner was set by the organization.

World, ready for Italian Fundraisers?
Highlights of the last editions were plenary sessions with Stephen Pidgeon, Adrian Sargeant bringing case studies, motivation and even dreams to national fundraisers. This time too the success of sessions with Nick Allen or Guy Mallabone showed the interest of Italians for good practises coming from abroad “even if it’s difficult to adapt to our market” as I very often hear.

At the same time, several Italian Fundraisers working abroad came to share their own experience. This is clearly the sign that “pasta” fundraisers are willing to conquer the world. Be ready for them!

While speaking about a global world, let’s recognise that donors are following the same path: now that they surf the net and can get information about charity work from all over the world. In Italy, according to the “osservatorio del fundraising” 46% of the 35 millions active users of internet made a donation in 2011. And over 6 millions subscribed to a NGO newsletter. But only 11% out of 20 millions users of social networks, declared to read the NGO blogs. Not surprisingly, fundraisers are looking for creative and technical solutions for getting the best out of the digital revolution. Looking also how to structure themselves and their database to be taking the most of it.

The Festival organization team perfectly understood the digital trend and decide to use for the first time a digital system for networking: each of the participant was provided a hand-shape usb key that would glow when pressed to another one. Simply fantastic, paper business cards were useless especially because you could find the whole profile of the people you met online afterwards. During 3 days, the number of “digital hands” were shaken 12.820 times. So let’s recognize that Italian fundraisers are happy to meet and exchange. Especially if it is fun!

On this particular subject, there would be a lot to say about how fun was the networking dinner, the disco party and especially the final plenary session that saw hundreds of fundraisers learn juggling…but don’t ask me too much, and make sure to join us next year instead.

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