Saturday, November 29, 2008

The sandwiches were great and the coffee even better..

In a recent posting I took aim at the awful food dished up at most fundraising conferences.

Kimberley Mackenzie was quick to point out that I would be pleasantly surprised at the food served up at the AFP Congress in Toronto. And she was right, the food was particularly pleasant, in fact the nicest I have had at any fundraising event to date.

But I did get more value out of the three days than the chicken breast served up at lunchtime on Monday.

In fact it was a fascinating three days, especially as this was the first time I had attended Congress and I had heard good things.

When I got the chance to deliver my session on Wednesday morning I talked about the four things that stood out in my mind as being 'topical' during the previous couple of days. Namely:

The 'Obama' effect. No real surprises here. Everyone, not just fundraisers, are talking about the US Presidential elect. My take on this was as follows: yes his fundraising team did an amazing job. But let's not try and emulate what he/they did. We simply can't. Rather than getting distracted trying to, just take out the key points. And for me the big thing that I would take out of his campaign (which many charities struggle to do) is deliver a clear and consistent message. Every time he spoke he and his party stood for one thing, change. If only we could emulate this single focused approach whenever we communicate with donors. Don't confuse them, but inspire them and make it clear what you want them to do.

Kiva. If you don't know about this little beauty then you should. The organization that facilitates mirco-lending for those budding entrepreneurs in the developing world.

My worry about mentioning this so frequently is that many are looking to be 'the next Kiva'. And when you're a small grass roots organization, you need to worry and concentrate on what matters most. Where your next dollar is coming from. How you can service your donors better. How you can have the biggest impact. Not star gazing at Kiva and wondering 'what if'..

Digital fundraising. What fascinates me about this (and hand in hand with this, the 'direct mail doomsayers') is that for as long as I have been attending fundraising conferences around the world, the last seven years to be precise, 'they' (the doomsayers) have been saying the same thing.

Now I'm not here to solely beat the drum of direct mail BUT I can tell you one thing.. it ain't dead. And I can tell you something else. Online givng won't be taking over 'traditonal' methods of giving anytime soon. Certainly not in terms of giving levels. In one sesion I saw data that suggested that around 2% of giving from individuals in Canada is donated online.

Broadly speaking that is backed up by the benchmarking work we have been doing lately (which I blogged about earlier in the week) at Pareto Fundraising which shows that whilst direct mail isn't necessarily growing rapidly, it certainly brings in a massive chunk of income for many, many charities, here in Canada and abroad.

'Recession' impact. Loads of discussion and crystal ball gazing on this one. Lots of data shown to suggest (including in my session) that to date (although I appreciate things are prone to change very quickly) individual giving is still strong across the sector, but guess what... corporates are the first ones to leave you, if they haven't already...

More info on this can be found on the Recession Watch blog.

So was it a worthwhile week? Of course. Lots of interesting debate and discussion. Lots of interesting people generating the discussion and lots of ideas floating around my head about how to move my clients programs (and the sector) forward.

Oh, and of course, just to reiterate some really good sandwiches to top things off nicely. I can't wait for next year!


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