When the International Fundraising Conference opens on Wednesday in the Netherlands it will not only benefit attendees, it will send a signal on the power and importance of “curiosity.”
Folks spend a lot of money, time and travel hassle to get to the IFC. Unlike most local/national conferences they come not to meet envelope and printing sales people and be taken to dinner but to learn.
In short, they’re curious.
Setting aside ‘complacency’ and ‘sloth’, one of the greatest barriers to growth in our sector is lack of curiosity. It is this trait that keeps most organisations content to live in the foothills of the same-old-same-old as opposed to seeking the higher peaks of great fundraising.
The reason IFC is, and has been for 30+ years , my favourite conference, is that it attracts the truly curious. Unlike our American conferences where the motives are mixed between being wined and dined by agencies ( the agencies derisively refer to it as “feed bagging”) and maybe learning a little something the IFC is quite different.
First of all IFC imposes high standards on those who present. No seat of the pants, off-the-cuff bullshit. Careful and thorough presentation is the main criterion to succeed with this group.
Most importantly, the IFC is the perfect laboratory for the “curious”. In the organisers ‘own words: This year’s programme is themed around creating inspiring connections between fundraisers, and between fundraisers and donors. It reflects the increasingly interconnected world we live in – culturally, politically and technologically.
The Resource Alliance, the somewhat mysterious gang that organises the IFC gets it. Fundraisers count. Donors count even more.
HOWEVER… my point is not just to celebrate the tribute to ‘curiosity’ represented by IFC. Whether you go to the Netherlands or not, that wonderful gene called ‘curiosity” is present no matter where you are. You just have to put it to work.
- Direct mail
- Online Fundraising
- Video messaging
You name it.
At a time when the majority of fundraisers are complacently stuck in the outmoded strategies of the past “curiosity” can help set them free and on the road to growth and greater success.
Year after year the old saying “that what makes you strong can kill you in the end” proves itself over and over with nonprofits. Rising acquisition costs, lower retention rates are but the latest example.
Unfortunately, being curious and applying your curiosity for change ain’t all that easy. Outdated strategies from outdated managers and outdated higher ups will work against you. They just can’t believe the past won’t keep repeating over and over.
This Paleolithic point of view coupled with always limited resources (unless, of course they want , to spend thousands of £’s , Euros or $ on some rebranding nonsense to please the Chairperson’s wife) , does indeed limit the application and testing of curiosity.
Top off all this off with the management not “getting it” in conjunction with rigid, hierarchical-based silos successful fundraisers must be prepared to fight two big battles:
- The belief on the part of the paleolithic management that donors exist to serve the organization.
- That donor loyalty is a form of stupidity and consequently should be exploited.
Tragically under this view, the more donors give the more they deserve to be exploited.
Of course all of this backward thinking ignores changes in demographics, the explosion of information complexity and the skepticism of today’s donor. In short, the managers who still subscribe to this are fools.
What’s needed today is flexible, adaptable nonprofit structures focused on the donor. Not on organization-centric issues involving various silos and petty internal disputes.
Today’s nonprofit must proactively live in the world of its donors.
Doing all this requires curiosity. Curiosity leads to fact-finding. And, fact-finding leads to new ways of doing things.
As the American author Dorothy Parker put it: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”
This post is part of the 2014 IFC Series. 101fundraising is proud to be the blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress! Check out HERE when Roger is presenting at the IFC.