IFC 2011 – Thinking differently!

This year, my visit to the IFC focused on the fundraising innovations. It’s quite clear that these innovative fundraising projects require a new way of working and thinking. Compared to the more ‘traditional’ techniques (like DM and TM) they often face us with less guaranteed ROIs. With projects requiring a marketing approach instead of something where only your fundraising staff is involved. And, most importantly, projects that thrive on the enthusiasm and commitment of your supporters.

So, what are the new developments, and (often even more important) how to get them implemented?

Succeeding @Innovation – part 1 & 2 – Gavin Coopey & Kevin Waudby

Gavin Coopey and Kevin Waudby started with ensuring (and uplifting) their audience with the message that ‘Not all (innovation) hope is lost, not even when you work for a large archaic organization.’ They  structured their workshops around The Innovation Burger, stating that innovation is more than just another great idea. Without Creativity there can be no innovation, but merely Creativity is not enough. You will also need:

  • The right Culture. Key attributes of an innovation culture are e.g. a well understood purpose, open-mindedness, and a leadership style where failures are not only permitted but also perceived as opportunities to grow. Both organizational as well as individual enablers should be part of your organisation’s culture.
  • Your organisation’s Strategy to obtain the necessary focus, and to be able to prioritize and choose between different opportunities for growth.
  • Capacity:  To be able to innovate requires having the right people (both operational as management), budget and time.
  • Engagement – on all decision making levels, and with all departments involved in one way or the other. Always identify the stakeholders, and how they can be influenced.


When these conditions are met, you can start a clearly defined  and implemented Innovation Process (including a.o. Gaining Market Insights, Idea generation, prototyping, pilots and Launch).

The first step in your Innovation process will be deciding on the ‘platform’, based on the combination of your 3 critical parameters:

  • your Business Challenge
  • Market Opportunity
  • Supporter Focus

The Innovation Burger presented a concrete model with critical requirements for your organization to be able to not only discover the right innovations, but also being able to market them successfully.

Great Debate – Are there any new ideas in fundraising? – Nick Thomas

This Great Debate, presented by Nick Thomas, presented an inspiring and diverse set of opinions on the new ‘BIG’ ideas in fundraising. The session started with the most important question: “Why do we need ‘new’ anyway?” To name a few:

  1. For growth/ To improve on disappointing results, or, plain simply: To survive!
  2. To maintain/obtain a competitive advantage
  3. To take advantage of opportunity
  4. To keep the passion alive!

Gavin Coopey illustrated the importance of Market Insights to innovation, presenting the results of a number of market interviews with UK charities. Overall they indicated that there are no really BIG new ideas, “asking is asking, and always has been”. Fundraising channels may change, integration becomes more and more important. There are of course some new ideas in the market (like e.g. KIVA, Movember and JustGiving).

Also, there are a number of emerging opportunities, like the growth in the online and mobile market, and the possibility to access new markets through partnering with other brands. Despite the professionalization of fundraising, since 1988 the percentage of UK household income has not grown. “Giving just isn’t that important to most people, yet, we don’t make it easy”. Gavin’s advice about what we should be doing, is:

  • Listen to our supporters
  • Engage them
  • Look beyond the sector
  • Spend more time on stories instead of building infrastructure

Per Stenbeck took us on an inspiring trip through (fundraising’s ) history lane, quoting from e.g. the Bible, and illustrating how fundraising for building cathedrals took place centuries ago. He clearly demonstrated how most present-day types of fundraising (door-to-door, celebrity-fundraising, DM, fundraising by schools/organisations, etc) were in fact already used ages ago. His main message: ‘There is nothing against innovation, but start with knowing the basics. Investigate our fundraising history, learn from our past. Fundraising should go back to its basics, i.e. storytelling. It’s not about money, it’s about meeting human needs.’

Jo Sullivan’s main message: “Never forget your story, never forget your Passion”, illustrated with both her own career path (working for e.g. the ASPCA), but also with Lisa Shannon’s story, a grassroot activist, and her charity Run for Congo Women.

Kevin Waudby presented some nice examples of new types of fundraising, like e.g. Tom’s One for One movement, and iHobo . Furthermore, challenging our current thinking, he questioned whether we indeed should be focusing on the most wealthy. Recent research indicates that the most wealthy donate the lowest percentage of their wealth.

Concluding, where I set out on a journey to gain more knowledge of the developments internationally, it turned out to be an inspiring exercise in.. Thinking Differently!



This blog post is the fifth in a series of six blog posts covering the IFC 2011:

– IFC: folding letters and licking envelopes! – Reinier Spruit
– I Am The Comms Devil – Margaux Smith
– Legacy Fundraising 101… Fresh from the IFC! – Juan Hendrawan
– Stepping out of your comfort zone – Sonya Swiridjuk
– IFC 2011 – Thinking differently! – Ellen Janssens
– Thursday 3 November: Julie Verhaar

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