Saturday, September 4, 2010

SOFII is great...but what do you actually DO with it?

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.


  1. You were the person who introduced Sofii to me a number of years ago, and although I had gone on a number of times to poke around and learn, it wasn't until quite recently that I went on with a purpose. I'm working with a fabulous new client, but in an area that I still have a lot of learning to do regarding their cause/mission and the best way to position them.

    Fortunate for me, I was able to go and gain some inspiration with this exhibit: for a marketing piece that was being created. While our finished piece looked quite a bit different, I was really able to 'get it' and for that I was really grateful. I now like you, just go to Sofii to see what else is being done around the world, to continue to grow, continue to stretch and continue to do good. It's a phenomenal resource!

    Thank you Kim for being such a great Sofii ambassador.

  2. Dear Tania,

    We are all SOFII Ambassadors!

    The Dogs Trust exhibits are a great example to use.

    Thanks for such a great comment.

  3. Happy that you asked Kimberly! I've been a SOFII aficionado for years myself (can't quite recall HOW I stumbled onto it). I use it as an idea resource when I am faced with the typical piece of nonprofit prose (yawn) and need some inspiration. I particularly like the "how I wrote it" series and the examples of *vintage* fundraising pieces. I believe that compelling donor-centered fundraising copy is timeless and the key to good fundraising is incorporating relationship-based fundraising into today's new tools.

  4. Completely agree Kimberley. As a new manager of a new fundraising team in an organisation with little track record in community and individual fundraising, the SOFII website has been invaluable. It has both offered ideas, inspiration and also reassurance that yes, you are doing it right! Like you, I also use it as a team development tool and am forever sending examples from the site to my staff as well as colleagues in different teams. I'm slowly introducing as many people as I can to the wonders of SOFII!

    Now, just need to do something inspirational and get it showcased!

  5. Thank you so much Pamela and Lesley for your comments.

    I'm keen to know who else is using SOFII as a tool for their staff. I'm sure SOFII's reach is much further than we think.

    Also love to hear about specific uses to help do good work. We know its happening but the testimonials are so helpful when it come to securing funding.


  6. Great blog Kimberley! We do have a great team and I am happy to be apart of it.

    SOFII is a great resource for fundraisers new and seasoned. To be able to have somewhere to go to for inspiration for new and interesting fundraising initiatives is great. The best being that they promote you to ‘steal’. Why not jump on someone else success wagon and use their good ideas to benefit your organization?

    I also enjoyed reading about stewardship mystery shopping! What a grand idea… It shows that even a junior fundraiser can make a difference if not only to improve their best practices when it comes to donor stewardship.

    Thanks for the great comments.


  7. HA! Thanks Randie. Nice to see you here and thanks for your comment.

    'Steal Stuff' yeah - that could be our motto.

    But seriously the stewardship mystery shopping is cool and I can think of a few more things to add to your plate...hmmm perhaps popping into the blog wasn't such a good idea after all!

    See you tomorrow..