Give or get out…of the profession that is!

I used to love the titles given to the IFC opening and closing CEO speeches at the IFC by my hero and fundraising guru and friend, George Smith. They were simply “Rant 1” and “Rant 2”. Though I will never achieve the wordy heights achieved by George here is my rant for today.

I am fed up with the hypocrisy of fundraisers…especially here in Europe. Phew…thank God I have now got that off my chest.

Having had a busy October spending a week at the wonderful and inspiring IFC in Holland followed by a week in Puerto Rico at the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) “Leadership Academy” and Board meeting I was struck more by the differences than the similarities between fundraisers each side of the pond. In North America fundraisers actually “walk the walk” whilst in most cases European “just do the talk”.

In the USA and Canada the word most frequently used is “philanthropy” whilst in Europe it is “fundraising”…and I have been wondering why. No this is not just a class in semantics it’s about us and our profession.

Wikipedia defines philanthropy as meaning” the “love of humanity” in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing and enhancing “what it is to be human” on both the benefactors’ (by identifying and exercising their values in giving and volunteering) and beneficiaries’ (by benefiting) parts.”

Whilst fundraising is described as “a significant way that non-profit organizations may obtain the money for their operations. These operations can involve a very broad array of concerns such as religious or philanthropic groups such as research organizations, public broadcasters, political campaigns and environmental issues.”

One is fundamentally human whilst the other is a mechanical act. So why is Daryl on a rant?

It is because for the 30 plus years I have been working in both fundraising and philanthropy across some 60 countries I have never met a fundraiser from North America that does not donate to, volunteer for and in many cases has included a charitable gift for the cause they work for, among several others causes that they are “philanthropic” about. And yes it is indeed “give, get or get off on Boards in the USA, including the AFP where I serve. Giving is celebrated, applauded and acknowledged.

Meanwhile, when I ask small groups of “professional fundraisers” within a non-profit, as did with a client in Austria last week or as I have with the 26 charities in the Spanish joint legacy campaign, if they give money, are regular donors or have left a charitable legacy gift I am met firstly with a blank stare and then usually a response such as “of course not, I work for the charity!” I get the same and fundraising conferences when I ask for a show of hands. It seems we have lots of learning to get but little in terms of leaning to give!

In Europe in seems we are “professional” fundraisers but not yet evolved into being “human” philanthropists! Happy, belated National Philanthropy Day.  It was 15 November in case you missed it because you were too busy donating, changing your will or setting a monthly gift to the non-profit you work for.

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