Anyone who knows me will tell you that I've been a SOFII enthusiast for several years. I still remember the first exhibit I ever read. SOFII saved the day for me back in the fall of 2007. It is easy to recall the feeling and pressure of being a lone fundraiser with writers block. After discovering SOFII and stealing an idea from this exhibit, my fundraising paralysis dissolved and my appeal was dropped in mailboxes just ten short days later.
Since then I have written about SOFII often here and here and my very favourite courtesy of Roger Craver here. Its hard to imagine anything more important than providing fundraisers around the world with a free, accessible archive of great fundraising case studies and articles. I know, The Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration is helping raise more money to feed children, protect and restore the environment, seek social justice and help the poorest and most destitute people on the planet. But how? By reading an exhibit or two a few times a month?
It is time for us to start talking about how we use SOFII in our work. I'll start.
My team at Ontario Nature is small. There are five of us. A development assistant, member and donor stewardship coordinator, data person, grant writer and me. That's the core team. Pretty bare bones but all enthusiastic, young, fabulous, funny and yes junior fundraisers. Learning and growing needs to be part of what we do together - everyday.
When we have team meetings there is always a lot to talk about. One constant agenda item is:
I ask each person to visit SOFII before the meeting and to bring in one fundraising example and a suggestion for how we can innovate to incorporate a new idea to improve service. At first folks weren't sure but I was the new Director and they played along to impress. Since then we have had some excellent ideas come from the team. For example:
After visiting SOFII Randie thought that all staff should be able to process a gift. We shouldn't lose a donation because she wasn't there. Now all program and admin staff have donation slips at their desk and Randie reviewed the process with them.
After visiting SOFII Irene thought we could revamp our thank you letters to be more personal and warm. She was right and we did.
I still smile when I think of Kiran (now enjoying maternity leave) admitting that she hadn't put much effort in and she brought forward this example from UNICEF because 'it must be good it's been around so long and I do the Christmas Cards so it got my attention.' Good enough for me!
These might all seem like pretty basic ideas to seasoned fundraising professionals. What I like most about this is the process. Asking staff to look beyond their own day to day challenges, beyond their own function and even their own organization. Getting the team to see things differently and then asking each other 'How might we do that here?' Together they are constantly striving to do things better and I thank SOFII for that. Our development team. Nicole, Randie, Lauren and me at Malcolm Bluffs Nature Reserve on a retreat weekend (we missed you Irene!).
Learning and growing in this sector needs to be done more than once a year at a conference. New ideas need to happen everyday. SOFII is always there for us. To be used in our own way to help us do our jobs better.
I hope SOFII will continue to be there for us all. That is why in addition to time and enthusiasm I also give SOFII my money (and my husband's money). I hope you will too. But more about that later. For now let's use this space to talk about your favourite exhibit or how you have used SOFII in the fundraising trenches. What impact has SOFII had on your work?
Thank you for spending time here.
PS Thanks to the fabulous development staff at Ontario Nature who tolerate me. I must remember to tell you the story of the day they became superheros.