Last week Esta Magazine (a Dutch glossy) published an article on three ‘professions of the future’. And guess what? According to them ‘fundraiser’ is one of these professions. A journalist approached me (and my dog) for an interview on what it’s like being a fundraiser. Her questions made me think: if this profession can contribute to a better future, in what way can I do my bit? And, since we’re at the beginning of a new year, which new year’s resolutions do I have to make in order to reach this goal?
For the curious ones amongst you: the other two professions of the future were ‘fertility doctor’ and ‘geriatric medicine specialist’. To me, ‘fundraiser’ was somewhat of an odd addition to this list. But hey, who am I? Seeing ‘fundraiser’ in the list felt as a great compliment. A great compliment for all of us fundraisers.
The journalist’s questions inspired me to think of the impact fundraisers can have in creating a better world. My first thought, was that we’re just the ones that raise money so that other people can change the world. Those other people should get credit for it, not the fundraisers. But then again, without financial means changing the world is pretty difficult. In Holland we say this is a typical ‘chicken and egg’ situation: which one came first? So I decided to consult fellow fundraisers.
Elsbeth Takkenberg, senior fundraiser at VUmc Cancer Center Amsterdam and 101Fundraising blogger, said: “With the euros I raise, changes can be made every day. So I don’t see ‘fundraiser’ as a profession of the future, but a ‘profession of the present’. And, as I think of it, it’s not the fundraiser who changes the world. It’s the donor.” Han Valk, head of fundraising and marketing at KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, added to this: “I wonder if the role of the fundraiser will be the same in the future as it is right now. If it’s up to me, fundraisers will be connected to specific organizational goals in stead of an organization itself. That they’ll be part of a network of stakeholders and donors who – as a group – want to solve a problem or improve a situation. Not just the ones who ask for money, in order to let the organization solve the problem.”
Back to the new year’s resolutions. Before I wrote down some of my own, I asked approx. hundred Dutch fundraisers in my network to think of theirs as well. Five turned out to be the most popular (in no particular order):
- Focus on better performance
Although ‘better performance’ was several times explained as ‘raising more money’, it was also explained as ‘being continuously eager to improve our service to donors’. This resolution was often combined with the second one:
- Downsize organizational costs
The amount (or: percentage) of money that’s really spend on the cause, is a recurring topic in Dutch media. Most fundraisers who replied to my questionnaire, pointed out that this not only a matter of spending less money on organizational costs. It’s also a challenge they face in communication with donors. Therefore most of them said it’s also important to:
- Be more honest with donors
Off course it’s important to share the successes of your organization with donors. But next to that, several fundraisers pointed out that (in 2013) they also want to involve donors more in the challenges (as in: difficulties) the organization faces.
- Build sustainable relationships with donors
Intensifying the relationship with donors is a new year’s resolution every fundraiser mentioned in reply to my e-mail. Except for Reinier Spruit, because he ‘only’ 😉 wanted to:
- Share more knowledge with fundraisers
And since I really appreciate his efforts in doing so with 101Fundraising, I’m more than happy to help him promote his new Facebook page for Dutch fundraisers.
My experience with new year’s resolutions is, that the longer you make your list the harder it will be to achieve all of your goals. So, this year my list consists of only one resolution. My mission will be to promote the power of friendraising. I passionately believe that the time has come for NGO’s to stop having a monologue with their donors and to start a dialogue. As you might know, I already shared some of my thoughts on this topic in this blog and I published a book about friendraising in The Netherlands. To me ‘friendraising’ is a holistic approach, and not only ‘building relationships’. If I live up to my resolution, chances are high that you’ll be hearing more about friendraising in 2013.
So, now that we (Dutch fundraisers) have shared our new year’s resolutions with you, we’re very curious what yours will be. Challenge yourself and share your resolutions with us in the ‘add your comment’ box below. Let’s create a better (fundraising) future!
A very big ‘thank you!’ goes out to Elsbeth Takkenberg, Han Valk, David Heyer, and Agmar van Rijn. They not only sent me their resolutions, but also took the time to share their overall view on fundraising in the future.