Are Australian fundraisers becoming too specialist?

Is it just me or are we professional fundraisers becoming pigeon holed? We seem to increasingly work in silos and frankly I think we just need to get out a bit more!

In July, literally on my birthday, I presented to the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s Major Gifts Special Interest Group in Melbourne. In many ways it was my best birthday present because I used to chair the group and because I just love major gift fundraising; it’s as if I was born for it. Anyway, the topic I was asked to present on was ‘Before and After the Ask’, that’s Asking for a major gift personally, professionally and passionately; I really do love it you see.

For those of you steeped in major gift fundraising you will realise that I was asked to present on two key steps in The Art of Asking process. But I have a confession to make, and for which I now duly apologise to anyone who attended my presentation and thought I was actually going to limit my presentation to those two essential parts of the major gift Asking process.

To test my gut feeling that fundraisers are becoming increasing differentiated from each other, in the sense that major gifts practitioners are working in isolation from direct response, social media, event and even bequest practitioners, I decided to do something quite radical for my presentation … no PowerPoint presentation!! No, just a whiteboard.

For my presentation I asked some of the experienced major gift fundraisers in the room to help me draw some of our professions best practice fundraising paradigms. So we created on the whiteboard a Donor Pyramid, a Circle of Giving, three Distribution of Giving Pyramids and even touched on the donor Life Time Value equation.

Throughout the session I posed two questions in respect of each of the paradigms we had drawn. Firstly, what areas on the paradigm were part of the major gift process and secondly, in respect of the organisation where you work NOW ….. how is the Art of Asking (for major gifts) process integrated with the other parts of the paradigm, as part of a Total Development fundraising Program?

I observed that most fundraisers in the session could contribute the first question, very few to the second one.

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Yes, There Is An Art Of Asking, Virginia

There are terrifyingly timid times in our lives when asking for something special means everything to us, like the first time you asked that special someone for a first date, or even worse, asking them on a second date! What about asking your boss for that pay rise, promotion or chance to prove yourself?

At these truly dramatic moments have you ever asked yourself … why on earth did I say that?! … and immediately afterwards thought to yourself … if only I had said … but the thing is, if you had said that something different, do you know if it really would have made a difference? Well professional fundraisers do, professional fundraisers steeped in the Art of Asking for major gifts.

To succeed and build a career as a major gifts fundraiser you need to learn, practice and apply the Art of Asking for major gifts. It’s a process, a discipline, with learnings that can be applied to everyday life. It’s an Art because the more you practise it, the more disciplined and creative you are in its application, the better you’ll be at it.

But just how does a successful Ask engage the ‘right’ people in the ‘right’ way? How does a fundraiser skilled in the Art of Asking create powerful, lasting connections between an organisation and its community leaders? How does ‘how you Ask’ lead to you successfully enlisting the time, talent and treasure of CEO’s and Board members, philanthropists, even companies, to support campaigns and causes? How do you reinvent your Ask for the next challenge?

My experiences of applying Art of Asking best practice have allowed me to transform fundraising programs, to enlist the support of individuals of the calibre of Olivia Newton-John, Andrew Demetriou and Sir David Frost, amongst many others. In February, at the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s National Conference in Melbourne, I will be conducting a Masterclass: Applying the Art of Asking across all fundraising programs – the one skill the professional fundraiser must have, reinventing Asking best practice – from donor acquisition to bequests, donor development to corporate sponsorship; even to enlisting institution volunteers, ambassadors and board members.

This Masterclass is intended to provide you with a deeper understanding of the principles and practice of the ‘Art of Asking’ process. You will know how and when to strategically apply the Art of Asking. How to selectively apply best Asking practice to bespoke fundraising programs you are part of. You will be able to confidently deliver Art of Asking presentations and training to development staff, volunteers, non-profit executive staff and boards knowing you are applying the very best practice.

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