Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of learning 2009

I am a work in progress. So are you.

At the end of the year it is a useful exercise to stop and ask yourself: What do I know now that I didn’t know last year?

Answering this question can provide reassurance that progress is in fact in process!

It is also useful to write down your learning so others can benefit from it. My post last year about 2008 has received most traffic on this blog so far. So I’m sharing my list with you again. The challenge is that I learned too much in 2009 for one blog post. Here is my abridged list. A few will become their own post in the coming weeks. But for today this is what I know now that I didn’t know last year.

1. Twitter works.

2. SOFII is transforming how we learn and share together.

3. If you have given all you can – find a new challenge.

4. 5 KM isn’t that far. Run it!

5. You kids will talk to you more if you have an msn account. Learn their language. My daughter's self portrait:
6. Be grateful when someone cares enough to criticize.

7. Burn out is real.

8. The Global South is the new fundraising frontier.

9. Budgets absolutely MUST be driven by a manageable work plan.

10. The more I learn the less I know.

People who influenced me the most in 2009

1. Craig MacKenzie (Ontario) – he tolerates me with calm pragmatism

2. Skye MacKenzie (Ontario)– pays more attention than I think

3. Chase MacKenzie (Ontario) – always full of empathy

4. Ken Burnett (UK & France) – inspirational and challenging at same time

5. Marie Burnett (UK & France) – a magnificent and patient editor

6. Gayle Wood (Ontario) – sensible, wise and fair

7. Mark Phillips (UK) – a generous and charming resource

8. Nisia Hanson (USA) – unfailingly enthusiastic and supportive

9. Jackie Mendoza (UK) – calm, encouraging and makes me laugh

10. John Lepp (Ontario) – generous and honest

11. Ram Kapar (Nepal) – His unfailing determination and for teaching me that humanity is one family and the world is one home

12. Sudeshna Kukherjee (India) – Beautiful. A bright light full of positive energy

The book that had the biggest impact on my work in 2009

The Influential Fundraiser
Bernard Ross and Claire Segal

(Watch this space for more on some of these points. Numbers 1, 7 and 8 are coming soon.)

In order to advance the sector and improve the world we must keep learning and asking ourselves and others ‘Why?’. We must constantly challenge ourselves to do better.

Take a moment now to think about your list of learning for 2009? It would be great if you felt like sharing it and left a comment here. We might all learn something that way.

The most important thing though is to do it. Write it down so you can see how you evolve year after year. You won’t regret it.

Thank you for spending time here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A blog for my Dad

As fundraisers we read a lot of letters. Every year there is one I look forward to the most. It is from my Dad. He doesn't even put my name on it, but I know he wrote it for me (and a few others) all the same. Here it is for you:

Christmas 2009

Dear family and friends,

It’s always pleasant to communicate at Christmas and we love your cards and letters. The big change to this year’s letter is I increased the font because most of you are getting so old.

We had a great six week vacation in the south of Spain again this year. We took the opportunity to visit Sevilla this time and saw where Magellan set sail for the first circumnavigation, the church of La Macarena, Carmen’s tobacco factory and the fabulous historic cathedral. We bought marmalade from the nuns but I did not get a haircut. We cruised to Casablanca in Morocco. The tour guide’s first words were: “If you came here because of the movie you should have gone to Florida where it was made.” Then off we went to see a huge mosque and a city of five million impoverished Arabs.

The big event while we were in Spain was a three night trip to Liverpool!
It was totally unplanned and a real magical mystery tour via John Lennon Airport and the Adelphi Hotel. After all those cathedrals and mosques we got to go to the Holy of Holies; Anfield Park where Liverpool play. We were inside the house I lived in as a small child (above) but unfortunately they left it out in the rain and it has shrunk dramatically.

We were also in a building I lived in as a teenager and met old friends for a trip down memory lane. Liverpool looks great and the scousers are still very warm hearted so you can stop not going there.

Back in Fuengirolla, Spain it was fiesta time for our local church of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. We attended an open air Flamenco Mass and procession; 72 young men carrying the statue and the whole town in flamenco dress with hundreds of AndalucĂ­a horses in the streets. It was again magical and lasted a week. We were up till three dancing some nights.

Back home the grandchildren visited again and we had a wonderful time with them in the forest, on the beaches. They grow to fast! They were an absolute joy and we have cause to be proud.

Pride still covers our grown children as Peter, Kim (that's me - you are not allowed to call me 'Kim') and Michael are all progressing in their careers and enjoying a healthy life.

We are both busy at our respective Rotary clubs and that is fun and fulfilling within the community. Dana devotes herself to bridge and Peter sells condos and houses quite successfully. We love life in Victoria.

In short our life is good and we hope yours is too.

(aka My Dad)
Thanks Dad for your letter and thank you dear reader for spending time here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A letter from Roger Craver

I got this letter from Roger Craver of the Agitator today. I'm one of his closest professional friends. How cool is that!

Roger wrote:

Dear Kimberley,

Today you’re one of my 7, 499 closest professional friends.

That’s right. We’re part of a special circle of 7,500 fundraisers around the world who each month spend time with SOFII—The Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration. And individually and collectively we benefit from SOFII’s rich offerings of case studies, tips, and techniques.

And today, SOFII, run by volunteer fundraisers for fundraisers, needs and deserves our help and support. Let me explain.

So far SOFII has raised 50% of the funds it needs now, thanks in part to the Big Give that doubles the contributions of friends like you.

BUT…we have only 48 more hours left to cash in on the Big Give matching money before their time limit expires. That’s why I need you to do your part – and to do it today if at all possible. (Please scroll down for Important Note* first.)

Let me tell you why I just made my own contribution and why I think every fundraiser who cares about our craft and wants to do their best work possible should give too:

* There’s nothing like it. “A smogasbord of fundraising innovation, creativity and excellence…a place where people can share and get concepts that are indeed worth copying…and she’s free.” — Greg Fox of Donor Power Blog.

* The world’s greatest swipe file. “And SOFII is yours to access online, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week – for free. All because you belong to the SOFII family of fundraisers. How cool is that?”—Lisa Sargent, Editor, The Loyalty Letter.

* Life is really nice when someone else holds the football. “A one hour tour through the pages of SOFII will harvest more great ideas than three days of attending conventions.”—Jerry Hunstinger, Copywriter and SOFII Contributor.

Here’s the deal. Even though SOFII is run by volunteers they’re not asking you or me to give up our vacations or weekends to help.

Rather they need us to make contributions – contributions that will be doubled in the next 48 hours –to raise the funds necessary in 2010. Funds given by fundraisers, for fundraising – to help build a new, improved, more user friendly website…to build bigger more diverse collections of amazing content, and to reach out and involve fundraisers from around the world.

You, more than most, know the value of not only giving but of giving back to your profession. So please do your part today.

Thank you.

Roger M. Craver

P.S. Today, I’m giving an extra contribution as a holiday gift in honour of Tom Belford, my Co-Editor at The Agitator. We both love SOFII and we write often about its value. Time to put some money where our mouth is.

PPS. If you have already given to SOFII’s appeal in the last few days, THANK YOU! (and please ignore this second email request. Ken will write to thank you properly soon)

Thanks Roger! Your one of my closest professional friends too!

Thank you for spending time here,

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Raise more money for ALL charities - Donate to SOFII today!

If you’re like me, every time you receive a SOFII update from Carolina, you know it comes with just the boost you need to raise more money for your charity.

You know, too, that every great resource on SOFII is always free... for all fundraisers around the world. We won’t be changing that.

But SOFII, like any organization, isn’t free to operate. So in order to keep serving charities like yours and mine, we need to start doing what we do best. To ask for money.

For a very limited time – ONLY 96 hours and it’s all over – when you donate to SOFII your gift will be doubled at no extra cost to you, through the Big Give.

That’s right. Any donation you give starting at 10.00 am UK time (5.00 am EST) on the 7th Dec will be matched dollar for dollar, pound for pound, by The Big Give, a UK philanthropic foundation. But only if you can get in quick...

Your donation can be matched only until their limit of funds runs out.

SOFII is competing for the doubling money against other, staffed, larger charities all lining up to secure limited Big Give funding. But because we are run by volunteers we don’t have the infrastructure in place to compete. Our only competitive edge is YOU. Please make your donation now, here:

If you’ve seen the video or slide show, you know that SOFII is at a turning point.

Next year we’ll be re-launching the website to make it easier to use, to offer more opportunities for you to get involved, to add more exhibits to help you promote your cause and to reach more fundraisers. But to take this next giant leap, we need your support now.

Our goal is to raise $80,000 before the end of the year. And in the past few months many organizations and individuals close to SOFII have already come forward to help. In fact, we now only have $30,000 left to raise by December 31st.

With your help, we can get there... especially if you can donate through the Big Give Campaign soon, because all donations received in the next few days will be doubled.

And if you can, forward this email to your friends, write a blog post and tweet incessantly. Whatever we can raise in the next few days – up to a total of $20,000 – will be doubled by the Big Give!

Remember, any gift you can give to SOFII now will double in value... but only until their limit of funds runs out. So please make your donation at 10.00 am UK time (5.00 am EST) on Monday 7th December or as soon after as possible, to double your money.

For the past two years the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration has been helping us all be better at our jobs. With more than 750 pages, SOFII is driven by content, and fundraisers write in every day to tell us that it’s truly useful. Just imagine SOFII next year when we take all that great content and place it inside a website that’s truly user-friendly. (The fundraising world will never be the same!)

Won’t you come forward with your donation today? You’ll be making a huge difference for SOFII, and for the advancement of your own good work, too.
Thank you so much – for believing in what SOFII is and can be. With your support, SOFII will get even better. For you, for me, and for all fundraisers, everywhere.

Thank you for spending time here and for donating to SOFII!

Kimberley MacKenzie
Honorary head of fundraising
SOFII, The Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration

PS To affirm for you and your colleagues why SOFII is so vital and valuable to fundraisers around the world, please read Julia’s story, In praise of a good swipe file.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Something has got to give

This blog is keeping me awake at night lately. It feels like I'm letting you down by not updating it frequently enough. The good news is there are a lot of fairly decent articles that people seem to have enjoyed already here. If you are new to this blog you may want to click through. The links are below.

For now I'm giving myself permission to not worry about this blog for awhile. My focus is needed elsewhere.

My new job.

It is going well, I'm learning a lot and I love it. As you know with any senior management fundraising position there is a lot to do. Especially when you start in the fall and you need to take advantage of year end giving. There is also planning for 2010 to do. Learning how to use the coffee machine is important too.


SOFII is transforming the way we learn and share our work. For two years that website has helped me raise more money, stay inspired and learn about fundraising in other parts of the world. So I want to give back a bit. SOFII is about to relaunch a new website. Before we do that we need to raise about $80,000. My volunteer priority is to help SOFII reach more fundraisers by becoming self sustaining. You may want to give back too by making SOFII one of the top three charities you support? We are here for you.

I also promised a couple articles to people and have a few conference sessions to do. (The next one is at AFP Toronto Congress so be sure to say hi. I'll also be speaking at AFP International in April and would be happy to see you there too.)

By taking a break from the self imposed pressures of this blog I hope to set an example for you. As a fundraiser you can't single handedly reach the UN Development goals for 2015, by yourself! Its better to scale back and do what you do well.

But don't fret dear reader, there is still a lot here to dig into. Here are the few posts that stirred up the most controversy or received the most responses.

How to respond to the economic crisis

Are there too many consultants as speakers at conferences? (blog of the month last year in Professional Fundraising Magazine)

Get out of your comfort zone

How to become your organizations competitive edge

Is $400K a fair salary for AFP?

2008 Best of Learning List

My all time personal favourite though is:

The seven key ingredient to building a successful organization

When I started it about one year ago it was simply to learn how to blog and how to write. The fact that you pop in to read it, share it and comment on it is exceeding my expectations so thank you! I'll be back in the New Year with a new best of learning list.

Thank you for spending time here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My vision for fundraising in 2020

Fundraisers around the world are talking about how fundraising will change over the next ten years. These comments are being collected on a wiki site courtesy of the Management Centre in the UK. I caused a bit of a fuss yesterday on twitter when I questioned the lack of diversity in the responses.

Each of us is responsible for our own response. Here is my contribution to the discussion:

How will donors be different in 2020? And how will they be the same?

Donors are onto us. They know this game. Donors will continue to want to take more control over their giving by linking more directly to the cause and being more involved in our programs. Venture Philanthropy or Philanthrocapitalism is evolving faster than the charitable sector. I believe many donors feel they could do our jobs better. Sadly in many cases they probably can.

We need to rethink the traditional model of a charitable organization and more specifically the role of fundraisers in the relationship. We must be more entrepreneurial about how we do business.

Which geographic markets will emerge more strongly as sources of funds?

By 2020 the global south will be making significant in roads as the sector leader. This will be the result of a number of factors: the population growth, extreme need and the gap between the wealthy and the destitute. In general the fundraisers I have met from Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan are hungrier, more determined and less complacent than many fundraisers I have met closer to home. They are constantly looking beyond their organization to learn more. This determination will serve them well as the sector in the global south grows.

The global south is the new frontier of fundraising and since many of the smaller organizations have that entrepreneurial spirit and are not bound by decades of traditional ‘by the book fundraising’ – they are better positioned for impact and to respond to the changing marketplace.

By 2020 charities in the global south will have the competitive edge over larger North American and UK charities. Many North American and UK charities will need to see beyond the equator and learn from fundraisers in the south where the sector is advancing at a phenomenal rate.

How will technologies for fundraising be different in 2020?

Our work in the charitable sector is mostly about building relationships with people to find out if our cause aligns with their personal interests and values - if it does we offer them the opportunity to become engaged with our organization. To do this well we depend on various communication channels and networking. Most of these activities will be online in 2020.

It is fundamentally important for fundraisers to learn how to use online social networks not just to connect with each other and stay current in our thinking but to engage our next generation of donors. The internet is creating a global marketplace. Smaller organizations in particular are better able to respond quickly and adapt to this new medium.

“Communication” is no longer about sending our message out and hoping to get a donation back. It’s about a dialogue, providing a forum for discussion and being flexible and transparent enough to truly listen to what our online community is telling us. Successful charities in 2020 will need to be comfortable watching as constituents talk about us with each other!

In ten years we will still have direct mail, corporate giving, and personal one on one major gift solicitations. However, many of those relationships will start with an organizations online presence. We will be tested on line first before anyone agrees to having lunch or attending an event in person.

What other issues will be important for fundraising?

There are simply too many of us. There are too many charities doing the same thing. We need to be more efficient and stop duplicating services and administrative functions. We will need to set aside ego and territorialism and sincerely look at how we can partner with each other. It is time for true innovation and collaboration.

Environmental charities will exponentially increase their market share. But only the organizations that provide real solutions, working with corporations and government instead of advocating against. The global community* wants to seek solutions to environmental problems and the ENGO’s are the natural partners to provide support and answers.

In Summary

The fundraiser who will be on top of their game in 2020 will:

• Find the vision above exhilarating.

• Will be constantly learning and working to improve not just themselves and their organizations – but the entire third sector.

• Will challenge the status quo and constantly be asking: Why? Is there a better way? Does this make sense?

• Will cherish every dollar they raise as if it came from their own bank account and will spend it wisely.

In ten years I will be fifty one years old and will have been working as a fundraiser for twenty years. By then I hope to have made a small mark on improving the world for my children and accomplishing my personal objective to secure a place as a hero in their – what will be by then – adult hearts.

The only possible way I can do this is by responding to the change in the third sector as best I can and helping others do the same – for there is only one certainty, there will be significant change.

Thank you for spending time here.

*except maybe the current Canadian government but we can hold out hope!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The impossible is possible

Like many families we use the internet for entertainment now. The kids usually find obscure video blogs from other countries and more episodes of Malcom in the Middle than I care to admit. When I have a gap and am looking for something to do I usually end up watching Ted Talks. (Although there was a not so brief spell this summer when I watched all seasons of Weeds online. Just to assure you I do know how to relax!)

Last night I discovered this gem. I've watched it four times and am now compelled to drop everything and share it with you.

I love this presentation for two reasons.

1. It surprised me

Hans Rosling looks like your usual geeky data guy. Yet he grabs me at the beginning and presents the data to a none data person in a compelling, entertaining and visually interesting way. Then at the end he completely blows my mind by doing something impossible and unexpected. Very 'sticky' indeed! Anyone who presents to people can learn a lot from this example.

2. It taught me something new

Africa is not the country I thought it was. It is progressing very quickly and ought to be admired. The same goes for other developing nations. We in the developed world must stop being so self centred. The data is telling us a fabulous story.

Put down your Sunday Sudoko and spend twenty minutes with Hans. He will blow your mind.

The impossible is possible.

Thank you for spending time here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It is hard to ask your friends for money

Like many people I'm not as active as I should be. Too much time sitting here I expect. I try to run but am not that disciplined about it. So when I was asked to run 5km on my first week in a new job the physical challenge was one I embraced. When I was asked to raise a minimum $250.00 in pledges for the privilege of this challenge my immediate response was 'oh I couldn't do that.' After all I hadn't even started working there.

Upon reflection it occurred to me that Ontario Nature had just hired me to help them raise millions of dollars and I just said no to personally raising $250.00. hmmmm.... perhaps I should try. So I doubled the goal and made a commitment to raise $500.00

Then I asked you to help me impress my new boss, staff and board by making a pledge of support. Thanks to many of you I exceeded my goal and raised $731.00.

This is a relatively small amount of money in our world but do not underestimate the impact it has had. In almost ten years as a professional fundraiser, I have never solicited funds personally. And yet, I ask fundraising volunteers to do this all the time.

Reaching out to my personal network and asking for money has helped me better understand the courage, passion and generosity of these extraordinary volunteers. It takes guts to ask your friends for money. We 'professionals' should never take this for granted.

I was able to finish the 5km although I confess to having to walk a little around the 3km mark. Exactly in the spot where I met the Chair of the Board for the first time as he went racing past me! (So much for good impressions!)

If you have never participated in a huge event like this I encourage you to registered for one now. There is something incredibly inspiring about thousands of people with various physical abilities, ages and backgrounds pushing themselves for something they believe in.

Yesterday was a life altering experience for me. I am determined to keep running and keep working on getting my time down. Surely with a little effort I can beat my personal best of 42 minutes 23.1 seconds.

Mostly though I'm deeply grateful to those of you who made a donation. Because of you I have a deeper appreciation of not just how hard it is to ask your friends and colleagues for money but also to know first hand how good it feels when they say yes.

Because of you I'm a better fundraiser then I was yesterday. Thank you.

Thank you for spending time here.

PS There was one anonymous donation. I respect that. This blog post is for you too.

Friday, August 28, 2009

How to breakup with your donors

Lake Simcoe has been very good to me. I have been very good for Lake Simcoe. I have learned a lot. So have they. Together we achieved many great milestones and even won a couple of awards. With mixed feelings I know that now is the right time to move on.

So when the opportunity came to work with Ontario Nature as their Director of Development it seemed a natural and exciting progression. The right move at the right time.

There was just a little problem. 'My' donors. I really like them. All of them. We chat in person and on the phone. I've been to their houses, shared wine at their cottage, met their grandchildren. They write me notes with their donations. I write them notes with their tax receipts.

Some of 'my' donors are even helping 'me' find other donors. One even stymied me by asking a prospect for $50,000 at a cultivation breakfast meeting - and got it! (a blog for another day) Another is passionate about helping to get more monthly donors and with a little support is bringing in hundreds of new dollars a month. (another blog)

When you become so close to your donors and know it is your time to leave what happens with the relationship? Should you make plans to stay in touch? Give them your new coordinates?

The simple answer is: NO. Absolutely not. This is not 'your' relationship. Our job is to build a relationship between the donor and the organization. We are the middle man. We are Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins swoops into the Banks family at just the right time. She is friendly and yet firm, provides structure, love, warmth and humour.

When the winds change - she graciously makes her exit and the Banks family is stronger for her having been there and moves onto their next thing. Kite flying.

Donors give because they love the cause. Not because they love you.

I recently tweeted that I was writing break up letters to donors and a couple people asked me how on earth I would write something like that? So instead of just sharing my opinion. (worth what you paid for it!) I will share with you what worked for me this week:

Next week our newsletter is going out to all constituents with a letter from our President announcing the move and wishing me well. So at the end of this week I personally wrote to individuals who are the most involved or highest level donors or those who have made multi year pledges.

Each letter was different but had the same core structure. Here is one example:

Dear 'Bill'

Tell them why you are writing

It is with very mixed feelings that I’m writing to inform you that I’m leaving the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation. I've been presented with a great opportunity that I must take advantage of.

I have accepted a position with Ontario Nature as their Director of Development. As such my last day in the office will be September 4, 2009.

Tell them to keep donating

'Bill', your enthusiasm and support of this foundation is so very much appreciated. I do hope that it continues. For Lake Simcoe – there simply isn’t another environmental organization doing the kind of work this Foundation/LSRCA is. Your donations and involvement are very important.

Reassure them that the organization is still solid

Because of people like you we have been able to do incredibly well building the Foundation and exponentially increasing funding for programs delivered by the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority. The Foundation has solid leadership in place and excellent staff (copied above) to carry on much of the work.

Remind them of the specific work or action they are involved in
(this is also good for staff so the letter can be filed and the action items for this individual can be highlighted. Really helps with moves management)

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to work with you more on building relationships at sunny bay. Of course you are well positioned with Marie on one side and Justin on the other. Your great work will no doubt continue.

Be sincere and say goodbye

I am deeply grateful for the opportunities afforded to me as the Executive Director and in particular your willingness to open your home and ask people to support this work too. I will remember the people and my time here with great fondness.

Most Sincerely,


Kimberley MacKenzie, CFRE
Executive Director
Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation

Yes it is a little bit sad. Changes are bitter sweet. A really cool thing happens though - your donors write you back. Thank you for your work and wish you well.

I remember feeling sad for Mary Poppins when she watched from the window as the Banks family went off kite flying. But we knew that wasn't the end of the story but rather the beginning of the next one.

There are new relationships waiting for me at Ontario Nature and honestly - I very much look forward to each one of them. For the next couple of weeks I'll just enjoy the pause in between.

Thank you for spending time here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The key ingredients for a good conference experience

I am a self proclaimed conference addict. I love them. I love the learning, seeing old friends, meeting new ones. I've been very fortunate to be able to attend conferences in several countries.

This week I'm in Washington DC at the Gaylord Convention Centre and am about to start a full week of intense learning and inspiration.

There are four key ingredients to having a successful conference experience.

1. Know why you are going

For example: To network and make professional connections? To learn about a specific area like direct mail, capital campaigns or leadership? You can't achieve your objectives unless you know what they are.

2. Moderation

For socialites like me this is a tough one. The social scene can be vibrant. It is costing you or your organization a lot of money and time to send you there. Do NOT stay up until midnight in the bar and wake up hungover. Just don't do it. You might as well not even bother going.

3. A Good Venue

This venue for Bridge is amazing The Gaylord Conference centre appears to be a brand new facility. It feels very much like a resort with a beautiful atrium, lush interior and exterior gardens great restaurants and it is located right on the Potomac river. A conference oasis.

4. Exercise

It clears your mind. Pack running shoes, get outside away from the coffee and danishes and go for a run.

Sadly, and I've only been here for a day, But the last two points have combined to given me a very negative first impression. Upon my arrival I went for a run along the river. (I seem to have found myself in training!) There is a gorgeous, well lit soft limestone trail a long the river. It looks fabulous from my room and I could hardly wait to get out there. Once I did however I was sorely disappointed.

There is so much garbage and crap along the trail it completely ruined my run. I could fill a landfill with all the human waste and garbage along the Potomac. Here I am learning how to raise more money for the environment and today all I want to do is organize a clean up along the shoreline right outside of what should be a world class conference facility.

It would seem the importance of a healthy natural environment has been forgotten. This makes me very sad.

Perhaps it is a small comfort for some that most conference facilities have indoor exercise areas. Not for me though.

Watch this space for more about my week at the Bridge Conference in DC.

Can you add to the list of key ingredients for a good conference experience? Please comment.

Thank you for spending time here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

In defense of the guru

Someone called me a "Guru" the other day. It was really weird. I choked on my coffee and wondered to myself, "Is the bar really that low".

The truth is that I live on the edge of my comfort zone and have a constant thirst for knowledge. Not what I would consider the makings of a guru.

This topic has surfaced again in another forum, as my colleagues John Lepp and Laurie Pringle have questioned what the word "guru" means to them. John even referred to a post of mine from last April where I questioned what seemed to me like a bizarre popularity contest in the UK of selecting the "most influential" in the sector in a public poll. (Congrats to the donor for making the top ten!)

So I've started thinking. What makes a guru?

I'm lucky to know a few of your typical guru types. After the first blush of infatuation I learned quickly that they put their pants on one leg at a time. Struggle with their weight. Feel insecure. The really good ones even have to learn new things to stay on top of their game. Like us all. No human being is perfect.

Yet the masses of fundraisers take these individuals and put them up on a plinth. (new word - :-)

Why do we see and treat these individuals differently even when we say it isn't important? What sets these people apart?

This is what I think.

In this world a small minority of people do the following

1. Ask Why?

Perhaps it is time to reTHINK the donor pyramid? Perhaps the cycle of donor engagement isn't a bell curve - maybe it is a loop? Perhaps it is possible that charities can apply learning from the corporate sector to be innovative and breakthrough to new territory - what would that look like? Perhaps fundraising isn't about numbers, maybe it is very simple and we ought to focus on real relationships?

It doesn't matter if you agree, when one person challenges the status quo it helps us all to evolve.

2. Walk in front of the crowd

In this world there are leaders and there are followers. We need them both. Your personality will dictate where you are most comfortable. Some people wake up one day, turn around and find a mass of people behind them. You can't force people to follow you. A rare few find themselves naturally at the front of the crowd. This is not a bad thing. Someone has to be at the front or we wouldn't ever go anywhere.

Leadership is essential to any progress.

3. Teach others

A lot of people are highly educated. Spend decades in school and attain several degrees. A rare few of those people feel compelled to share their knowledge. I've met many who hang onto it as if they somehow are superior to us commoners without formal education. A rare few of these brilliant people see themselves on equal terms as you. They just know more and share it with generosity.

A generous mind is a gift that should not be wasted on those who do not appreciate it.

4. Genuinely care

Mentorship is different than teaching. When someone provides mentorship they genuinely care and want you to be successful. There is a real sincerity in this relationship that is difficult to explain but for those of you who have been on both sides as I have, you can appreciate how special the mentor/mentee relationship can be.

I want to take a moment and stop picking on the Gurus.

Let's take a moment to thank them for their original thought, leadership, teaching and mentorship.

Thank you for spending time here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stealing from Seth Godin

When working on my personal mission statement last year one theme kept emerging. I wanted my children to see me as a hero. (you can see my mission statement on my profile page) The only way I could do that was by improving the world in some small way for them. This post from Seth Godin speaks to my personal values on such a deep level I want to share it with you.

You matter
When you love the work you do and the people you do it with, you matter.
When you are so gracious and generous and aware that you think of other people before yourself, you matter.
When you leave the world a better place than you found it, you matter.
When you continue to raise the bar on what you do and how you do it, you matter.
When you teach and forgive and teach more before you rush to judge and demean, you matter.
When you touch the people in your life through your actions (and your words), you matter.
When kids grow up wanting to be you, you matter.
When you see the world as it is, but insist on making it more like it could be, you matter.
When you inspire a Nobel prize winner or a slum dweller, you matter.
When the room brightens when you walk in, you matter.
And when the legacy you leave behind lasts for hours, days or a lifetime, you matter.
-Seth Godin

Thank you Seth. Imagine how we could change the world if we all tried to "matter" just a little bit more.

This blog is going to be a little bit less active for the next few weeks. Stay tuned though because fabulous things are happening.

Thank you for spending time here.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Have you ever done anything really stupid?

This blog has been neglected you these past two weeks. I'm sorry and I'm back.

I was just mowing the lawn and did something incredibly stupid (well two things actually):

One, I should have made my now eleven year old son do it!


There was a newspaper that had fallen out of recycling and was waiting for me on the lawn. I knew it was there. Even walked past it a few times. Then I started heading right for it, thinking as I got closer I should stop and pick it up. I didn't though. I kept going. Mowed right over it. Now instead of having one newspaper on my lawn I had thousands of little pieces spread all over the yard. True the moment of destruction was kind of cool. Satisfying even, but after I finished the two hours of yardwork I had another twenty minutes of picking up shreds of newspaper - and didn't get them all!

After I did this I started thinking about stupid things people do. Like not training their front line staff. Every person in your organization has an impact on donor loyalty and the financial bottom line. Then I thought about Jonathon Grapsas's blog. You should read it - it shares another story of the stupid things people do.

Thank you for spending time here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Working with your Board of Trustees

At the moment I should be preparing for tomorrow. Its our Annual General Meeting and a first time ever joint board meeting between the Foundation and the parent organization boards. Instead of reviewing my financial statements and staff reports I went for a little exercise with some girlfriends then we had a green tea and worried about our kids together.

Now I'm alert and writing this instead of reviewing materials for tomorrow. Why? Well it's their meeting isn't it? I'm just the hired hand. Reports are done. Recommendations made - tomorrow is about them. They will be just fine.

The relationship between a board and staff is complex, sometimes hard, often misunderstood. There have been a lot of great discussions and articles this month on this topic. Professional Fundraising in the UK was kind enough to publish an article of mine on the topic. Sean Triner has a good article in Australia that he just tweeted about.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy Had a very lively discussion on whether members should be donors.

I commented about it in the discussion and share my perspective with you below.

Completely agree with #14 Lori who says “because if you don’t think the mission is worthy of your money, why would anyone else?”

In fact we have now moved this out to staff. Those closest to the organization need to make a philanthropic commitment that tells the world “Our work is important and worthy of investment”.

To be considered a philanthropic gift it should come voluntarily without pressure, therefore the amount isn’t important. Stating an amount could prevent larger gifts or create a culture of “bought my way on, get to vote – what else to do you expect!”

The point about a diverse board with broad skill sets and networks is also key. $10 from someone who can find or raise $10 million or help in other areas is extremely valuable.

In order to create the philanthropic culture fundraising staff need to better support the board to help them understand what their gift means on a much deeper level than the budget.

It is the act of giving – not the amount that is important.

Yes absolutely all board members and staff should donate. Five dollars per month or $150K per year. All gifts should be recognized for the spirit in which they are given. Deep belief in the mission of the organization. Once this happens the culture that is created will speak for itself and other donors will want to be a part of you work.

There isn't an easy answer for working with a board. Each one is different and constantly changes depending on its members, your culture and your chair. There is a lot of great advice out there. Generally, I've found the techniques in the Influential Fundraiser very helpful and continue to study and practice them.

When the relationship between staff and board is working well - your organization can soar! Well worth the investment of time and effort.

Do you have a story about working with a board of trustees? We'd love to hear it. Your comments/thoughts are most welcome.

Thank you for spending time here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The worst AFP presentation ever

You absolutely must hear about the worst presentation ever.

It was at the AFP Toronto Chapter fundraising day. I've been attending AFP Toronto for nine years, while I frequently speak for work and spoke at IFC last October, this is my first time ever speaking there in front of my local peers. The room was a little dark and full of people. There was a mountain of A/V equipment was all over the place. About a million cords and remotes to sift through. It was difficult to find the right one to advance the slides.

I had neglected to test the PPT but trusted the A/V guys.(Other people do these things right?) Big Mistake they couldn't find it. Which forced me into the depths of C drives and F drives and G drives and USB sticks at the bottom of my purse. While I was digging through the clutter in my computer to find the presentation I kept falling through the floor because it was a series of platforms all with space in between covered by carpet. I had heels on so every time I took a step I almost died.

Still I tried to be cool, made a few jokes with the folks. Then my daughter appeared, nagging me about the importance of body piercings and the coolness of "snakebites". People started to leave. So I put up a video. Kept looking for the presentation. The room was almost empty.....then they started coming back...the room was packed, lined up out the door. Still couldn't work my way through the clutter in my computer to find the presentation. Lost the remote again!

Finally I decided we could tell the benefits of SOFII without a powerpoint. I was ready to try and talk my way through something useful with a flip chart and it occurred to me...this couldn't possibly be happening. It was only a dream and perhaps rather than sleeping in on this rainy quiet long weekend.... I should get up and work on my presentation!!!!

Have you registered for AFP Toronto Chapters Fundraising Day yet? That first presentation by that newbie promises to be very interesting...

Thank you for spending time here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Who are you leading?

Tell a story

Connect a tribe

Lead a movement

Make a change

Seth Godin is brilliant. This will take about twenty minutes, about as long as watching an episode of the Simpsons...but much better for you!

Thank you for spending time here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Start a parking lot committee

Conversations in parking lots are often some of the best ones. People are honest, they challenge each other, they dream about possibilities and even laugh.

THEN what happens all too often is that everyone goes back in the meeting and seems to leave their creative thinking and independent ideas a the door. Why is that?

Start a parking lot committee and encourage honest, frank, candid and respectful dialogue. Listen with intent to understand.

It is likely you have been asked to be there because you are a leader in your own right. You have a perspective that could add value. Be sure to share your perspective at the table, when it can make a difference...not just in the parking lot.

If you do this you will be far more likely to be proud of the result.

Get on the record - have honest and challenging discussion at the table, not in the parking lot.

Thank you for spending time here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Twitter Friend or Foe? Part II

In part one of this post I asked a simple question: Does knowing what other people are doing add value to your life?
It has been just over two weeks and 141 “tweets”. It started as a curiosity and now twitter is the first place I go to in the morning and the last place at night. It must add value although I’m not sure exactly why. Let’s try to figure that out…

Twitter moves fast.

Your network expands at a remarkable rate. People are ruthless; they follow for a day, stop following if you aren’t interesting to them. This way you end up building a community you enjoy spending time in.

Twitter is a place to get to know people.
It’s like spending your day in a big office full of likeable people with common interests who are working hard. At the same time they are joking, laughing, taking lunch breaks, getting married, watching pointless youtube videos, sharing news and oh yes…sharing resources.

Joining twitter can strengthen existing online relationships in a way Facebook or a blog can’t. Short tweets about riding a bike to work, babies keeping people up at night, meeting “boys” at the grocery store or cats taking over the couch add a human element to online relationships. Matt Parkes talked about twittering moments of discovery, reflection and achievement last week on his blog.

Twitter integrates other social media.
YouTube, facebook, blogs, news items, flicker, LinkedIn they all come together in one place and work to tell stories, share information and yes…even raise money.

Twitter and fundraising. This is tricky and controversial. A few charities I liked lost me quickly. They felt like machines blasting me with the key messages all day. I stopped following them immediately. There are a few consultants on there who promote themselves so much they will loose me soon too. Laurie Pringle is right. There needs to be a balance – it is called “social media” for a reason. The relationships you develop can lead to a raising money if done the right way. I’ll be writing more about this on SOFII next month.

However, Twitter is not the online answer to my organization’s two person fundraising shop. No way. I often wonder what is falling behind as organizations throw limited human resources into online fundraising? As Marc Pitman points out, it might be worthwhile to at least become familiar with web2.0 and certainly there is no need to fear it. In the Lake Simcoe too many of our other programs would be compromised if all my work energy went into online initiatives. It is hard enough for us to keep our website up to date. Until our capacity is stronger, I’ll learn about how social media works from the experience of other charities.

Who to follow?
Ask yourself why you are there. I am there to learn about how twitter fits into the charitable sector. So I started by searching for online colleagues I already knew. People whose blog I read, charities I liked. Then I looked at who they were following and before I knew it – I had my twitter community.

The Future of Twitter.

It is hard to imagine that the folks at Twitter will be able to sustain this growth, it will need to innovate quickly. Watching what they do will be very fun.

In the meantime, it is what it is. Informative, educational, social and sometimes completely without purpose.

Thank you for spending time here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Is $400K a fair salary for AFP?

In the three months since seeing Dan Pallotta speak about his book Uncharitable I've been waiting for a reason to blog about it.

Well it would seem today is the day. The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is having to make some tough decisions. See the full article in the The NonProfit Times

When I read that the AFP CEO Paulette Maehara earned around $400K my jaw dropped to the floor. It was a classic supremely "uncharitable moment" and a huge surprise.

It is ironic because just yesterday I had a conversation with someone who was thinking about coming over the "bright side". I told her she could make real money doing good. I even let her borrow my signed copy of Dan Pallota's book.

Dan is on as he describes it and "Al Gore type mission" to level the playing field between the corporate sector and the charitable sector. This is good brain food and I encourage you to spend eight minutes listening to Dan's video below.

He is right. Intellectually it all makes sense. AFP needs a good leader right now and that leader should be compensated well for the challenges she will face. This is what my head tells me. Yet, the do gooder and AFP member in me had a very real and emotional reaction from the heart about how much money we members pay her.

Watch Dan's video and you tell me. Is a $400K salary package fair for an organization like AFP?

Thank you for spending time here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

I intended to write something really inspiring and fantastic about earth day today.

The problem is I'm too busy raising money to plant trees, clean water, educate young people and just generally save the planet.

So....Happy Earth Day.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Twitter...friend or foe?

Hi - I've been "tweeting" this week and was going to write about how odd it is. Was going to ask you if knowing what I'm doing all day added any value to your life at all?

On the upside though it is sort of cool to "chat" with colleagues throughout the day. But I'm not really one for pointless, time wasting chit chat around the coffee machine or water cooler and that really is what Twitter is all about. Or so I thought...

Then this morning I finally had time to follow a link and I found this.

Twestival Drill Day 4 - Well Complete from charity: water in Ethiopia from charity: water on Vimeo.

Something I'm very interested in and dream about doing. This morning because of Twitter I felt like I was a part of it. Wow.

So Twitter gets a reprieve. You can decide for yourself if my life is interesting enough for you. If it is maybe you could come to Canada and we could actually have a conversation over a coffee and make eye contact.

I'll tweet for another week and think about it again. You can follow me if you like(@kimberleycanada).

Oh what the heck....I'll ask anyway. Does following me on twitter or seeing my tweets on this blog add any value to your life at all?

Thank you for spending time here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

There are some things in the UK I just don't understand

One of the things in London that me made take notice is the reminder to pedestrians to look left (or right) before they cross the street. True it is useful and permanent signage to tell visitors that traffic comes at you in the opposite direction. Look right to avoid being hit by a car. Purposeful but odd to a Canadian girl.

Something else that is a little odd to me is Professional Fundraisings most popular fundraiser poll. I noticed this poll briefly in the April online issue but didn't pay much attention because frankly it didn't have anything to do with helping me become a better fundraiser. Then I read Mark Phillips blog and I started thinking...

In the UK there are super fundraising stars called "gurus". We like it when they come to our conferences. We all know who they are and we attend their sessions even if they are the same as the ones we saw last year. We are entertained if not exactly educated.

This guru mentality is most likely being fueled by things like this poll for most "influential fundraiser". Do fundraisers in the UK strive to be included in this list every year? Is that a purposeful thing or does it tempt fundraisers to strive to be popular with other fundraisers at the risk of not doing their job? A little bit like high school isn't it?

Is it important to be considered a guru by your peers? Do gurus do more to make the world a better place than all those other unknown fundraisers?

Like the signage embedded in the pavement this is another thing that seems odd to this Canadian Girl - only it is completely without purpose.

How does this kind of thinking help advance the the charitable sector? I'm not sure it does.

Thank you for spending time here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

You know your board meeting is going to go well when....

You know your board meeting is going to go well when there is a flurry of phone calls from members the day before.

You are not responsible for your organization. The board of trustees is.

You are responsible for giving them the tools and information they need to do their job.

Thank you for spending time here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Calling all closet blog readers!

Blogging is a place where you can learn to write, make connections, have a dialogue, create an international online presence and push boundaries. While this blog may not change the world. I think it is a cool hobby and hopefully some of the content is useful.

Last week at the AFP Conference in New Orleans I ran into someone who I had met at a conference in Holland. He immediately told me that he was reading my blog. How flattering. He then went onto tell me about one post in particular that had travelled the world and been part of extensive discussions. I was surprised by this. I knew it was a provocative post. I wrote it to start a discussion. Apparently this post had travelled the world and yet only one person commented on it publicly. Why is that? I could have been wrong (in fact now I think maybe I was) and would have welcomed the debate.

This week the number of "followers" for this blog grew from six to seven. Every time a new "follower" signs up I smile. Here is the really puzzling thing though as of today 499 people from 39 countries have visited this blog. 70% of those come back again! (Truthfully I have no idea how those stats fit in with other blogs. I could be confessing very poor performance here. Still that is sort of cool.)

Yet only seven followers and fewer comments? So I have a favour to ask: If you end up becoming the 500th person to read this blog I would ask you that you consider becoming a "follower" and perhaps even jump into a debate with a comment or two. If you are a closet reader I want to encourage you to join us here publicly. It would be good to get to know each other better.

I welcome alternative points of view. Expressing them is how we will learn from each other.

Thank you for spending time here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Importance of AFP

I am very fortunate to be at the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference in New Orleans. Last night I was very lucky to have met Andrew Watt who is the director of programming for AFP. It was a brief encounter. He probably doesn't remember it, however it got me thinking.

I have heard and have contributed to critical comments about conferences:

They are too big.

They are too small

They are too political.

The delegates are passive.

There isn't any food.

It is too expensive.

The list goes on. We all think we could do better than the people actually doing it.

After I met Andrew though I started thinking about how important his job it. Without AFP I wouldn't have a career. Without my career millions of dollars would not have gone into important work. AFP programs have had a profound impact on my life. I guess I just figured that out.

Sidney Potier spoke yesterday about the waiter who taught him - a dishwasher at the time - to read and his regret that he didn't ever get to properly thank this man - whose name he didn't even know. Simply because at the time he didn't realize the profound impact that knowing how to read would have on his life. Today it is my turn to thank AFP for their programs that have given me a fantastic career.

Do you have a influencer that you ought to reach out too and thank for their impact on your life? Do it now - today. Tomorrow will be too late.

Thank you for spending time here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

If the party doesn't sound one will want to attend!

Most small to mid size organizations start with a small event that grows...hopefully into a mature and diverse fundraising program. (let's assume the ideal) As your other revenue streams mature, the event continues to be an important part of non receipted revenue, community engagement and your organizational culture/history.

Events are also the easiest part of fundraising for your board and volunteers to understand. (Sadly, many smallish organizations struggle to help their board see beyond securing auction items. We can talk about overcoming that in another blog)

My organization has one event a year and it is an important one for all the reasons mentioned above. Like many of you we are finding that we need to work harder to deliver the same results.

Do Not Panic!

If you are working on an event and are finding the road bumpier than last year, whatever you do not panic. Raising alarms, desperate plees for attendance, extended early bird deadlines and discounted tickets scream out failure!

Stay the course, think of things differently, work hard and engage those closest to your organization in helping to be a part of your success. Actually, they key for any fundraising success is a positive attitude. Perhaps this is most true with event fundraising.

Instead of the economy being your excuse for a mediocre result, perhaps it is an opportunity to refresh your strategy?

Keep your "tribe" involved and informed

Part of my strategy this year is to keep my board and those closest to us involved in our progress several times a week with a quick email update. This is my fifth event here and I've noticed that this year we are getting more unsolicited board "energy" and involvement than previous years. I'm not begging for help - I'm sharing information and keeping them involved. Then they phone us with help rather then us phoning them. Far better!

A gift for you

The update I wrote yesterday is I think quite good for many reasons and today it is my gift to you. Copy it, use it, try some of the ideas in it.

Here it is: (most names have been change - except for the ones of the stellar, amazing and extraordinary staff who read this blog. Judy and Karin you are incredible!)

March 24, 2009

Dear Members,

Things are moving so quickly, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a private/inside scoop on the conservation dinner and the evolving strategy to ensure its success.

You and our fantastic committee have been working very hard to secure fantastic auction items. My office is full of great stuff that I am trying to convince Judy and Karin to let me buy - but they won't let me!

This email will focus on our current priority - tickets sales

This event has never had to market itself in the past and has consistently reached 500 attendees or close to it. This year the climate is a little different and we are working on proactively ensuring we have a full room of enthusiastic shoppers. I have attached a list of who has purchased tickets to date so you can see if you contacts are there yet.

We have Engaged a "Ringer"! Please join me in welcoming Tammy (copied above) to our team. Tammy is a volunteer who came to us from the Neighbourhood Network. We are very fortunate that she expressed an interest in volunteering for the foundation at just the right time. Having recently found herself with a bit of spare time Tammy was looking for something to do. A quick look at her resume, which outlined 20 years of experience in sales with a large IT company, was all it took to get her on board. So yesterday we put her to "work" on helping sell tickets/tables for the dinner.

This is what we have done to date to ensure we get to our objective of 50 tables:

2. The Local Resort will be promoting our event in their online newsletter to 22,000 at the end of the month. This will have a link to a new welcome page for them on our website.

3. Local Marina will be mailing 500 order forms with a cover letter encouraging attendance to their boaters. They will also be soliciting a sponsorship from all the marina's under the umbrella of the their Association.

4. Local Tourism business will be promoting the event on their website and to their constituents

5. I have posted personal invitations to five Facebook Groups

6. A Corporate Friend is sending promotional emails to their contact lists.

7. Karin is continuing to proactively seek out media attention and media sponsors

8. My email updates go to 400 people. We have sent two.

This is what we will be doing next week to get to our objective:

1. Tammy is currently reviewing lists from previous years and will be making phone calls to "regulars" reminding them to purchase their tickets before the early bird deadline Friday. She will also be spending next week on the telephone reminding people to be sure to get their tickets while there is still room.

2. Tammy and Karin will work together next week to consistently assess momentum and develop ongoing strategies. (I'll be away next week but available by email.)

With three weeks to go, 35 tables to sell and $30,000 in sponsorship to secure, everyday is important. We will continue to keep you posted on progress. Please DO NOT worry about duplication in this case. The more buzz and enthusiasm we can create the better.

Please remember to stay positive with your contacts. We are not desperate - we are being proactive and innovative. This event has a very public reputation for being incredibly successful and we of course would not want to compromise that. We are confident the event will continue to be full of energy and a lot of fun. We all just have to work a little harder to do it.

Thank you - don't hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Kimberley MacKenzie, CFRE
Executive Director
Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation

By the way: since that email was written we have sold several more tables and another sponsorship. Everyday a little bit of progress is made.

Oh and if you are in there can buy your ticket here. (it really is a lot of fun.)

Now its your turn, tell us your strategy for ensuring a successful event this spring?

Thank you for spending time here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The world water crisis reached out to my bathroom

Water is essential for life. Without water we cannot live.

The simple fact of the matter is – we can’t make more water. We have a limited supply. We absolutely must cherish what we are so fortunate to have.

I remember a couple of summers ago having some girlfriends over for an evening of food and wine. We live in the country and evenings like that carry on until the next day. At about two o'clock in the morning, after I had finished cleaning up, finding people beds and pillows I was finally ready to wash the hot stickiness of a very humid evening off my face and go to bed. I turned on the tap expecting cool clean water and I got a sputter of brown sludge...then nothing. Our supply had dried up. I was completely baffled and I must say a little scared because all of a sudden the largest public health issue of our time - the world water crisis - had reached out to me in my bathroom.

Nearly 1.1 billion people (roughly 20% of the world’s population) lack access to safe drinking water. The lack of clean, safe drinking water is estimated to kill almost 4,500 children per day. In fact, out of the 2.2 million unsafe drinking water deaths in 2004, 90% were children under the age of five. Water is essential to the treatment of diseases, something especially critical for children.

Yet many people in Canada don't seem very worried. I often wonder what other countries think about us when they see how we take this life depending natural resource for granted the way we do.

Today is world water day. The theme this year is transboundary water. I wish that water was more evenly distributed across the planet. I really do. I'm embarrassed by Canada's abundance of and our neglect for such a life saving resource.

A lot of agencies are doing amazing work getting water to the people and changing the local economy as a result. There are a lot of videos about walking for miles to secure a gallon of dirty water.

I like this video though because it helps us see how this problem could impact more affluent western countries.

If we take care of our water, our air will be cleaner and the land will be stronger. People will be healthier. It is a pretty simple cycle. Do something today to conserve the worlds most precious resource. Here is a list of ideas to get you started.

Thank you for spending time here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My relationship with Ken Burnett

I'm in a relationship with Ken Burnett. Have been for some time actually. I suppose it is time to come clean since Canadian Fundraising and Philanthropy tells all the sorted details in their March Newsletter.

It all started about a year ago when I was working on a direct mail piece and it was a bit of a struggle. I picked up Ken's book The Zen of Fundraising for some inspiration. There was a reference that I didn’t understand so I decided to drop him a note and ask him what he meant. He says at the back of the book to contact him, the email address is right there - so I did. (Buy the book if you don’t believe me)

Ken actually wrote back – within 24 hours. After I got over the initial shock of it all (as well as the cynicism that perhaps this was someone on staff and not actually him) we started a dialogue. He shared resources and information and gave me about one hour of free consultation. I was so grateful for the experience I offered to do something for him – although I couldn’t imagine what it could possibly be…

My story continues here on the Canadian Fundraising and philanthropy newsletter. Read it and then start some new relationships of your own!

Thank you for spending time here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Should a rape crisis centre use sexuality to raise money?

This issue has received a lot of attention recently in Belfast. A struggling rape crisis centre hired a burlesque star to perform at an event. Of course this move secured a lot of attention from the media. I read about it on the UK’s Professional Fundraising blog. On that blog I commented that I hoped more blogs talked about it so as to generate more attention for the small struggling charity in Belfast. So it seems only fitting to mention it on my own blog.

But what to say……

We could talk about the difference between burlesque and stripping. A topic my dear husband willing researched for me. According to his research burlesque is an art form that started in the 1800’s as musical, comedic theatre with gross exaggeration and parody. Sounds fun.

“The UK scene is definitely growing with the introduction of the London Burlesque Festival in 2007 and the Ministry Of Burlesque gaining a seven-figure investment from a major mainstream media company in mid-2008 to create an IP/TV channel and TV studios which are entirely dedicated to the artform. Club Noir is officially the world's biggest burlesque club according to Guinness World Records, with up to 2,000 people at their events in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London.”

Hmmm. Isn’t’ that interesting mainstream media in the UK is investing huge amounts of money into burlesque but we are condemning a small charity in Belfast for doing the exactly same thing. (If you haven’t read “Uncharitable” by Dan Palotta you may want too)

All that is sort of boring though…this argument is about something bigger...

Should a rape crisis centre use sexuality, aka burlesque, to raise money so that they can help more victims?

Should a breastfeeding organization take money from companies that violate the WHO Code for the ethical marketing of breastmilk substitutes so they can help more new mothers?

Should an environmental organization take money from businesses that make parking lots for us to park our cars on and build houses for us to live in so that we can create more wetlands and plant more trees?

Should children’s organizations raise money to stop bullying by creating boxing matches between police officers and firefighters?

Should a humanist organization run a bus campaign claiming there isn't a God?

This is not a question of the right or wrong decisions of a small charity in Ireland. This is a question about values.

I can’t claim to be an expert on counseling rape victims. Fortunately that is beyond the scope if my experience. But if the crisis centre in Belfast can help more women recover from their assault and eventually have a sexually satisfying relationship; I would enthusiastically attend an event with a burlesque dancer.

We, fundraisers, do not have the right to judge the decisions of other charities. Each charity has to determine its own values.
Jim Collins states"

In truly great companies, change is a constant, but not the only constant. They understand the difference between what should never change and what should be open for change, between what is truly sacred and what is not. And by being clear about what should never change, they are better able to stimulate change and progress in everything else.

To compete, we have to change, we have to embrace our values and we have to evolve. Why should small charities anywhere be any different? The only people who have the right to judge whether a charity made the "right" decision based on their values is....

THE DONOR, who presumably shares the same values and will withdraw their support if a charity strays too far.

You might have different ideas about this. I welcome the debate. "Angry feminists" you are welcome here. Middle aged men who wanted to comment on this but are too. What do you think?

Thank you for spending time here.