Opening the door to outside influence
I’ve often wondered why there’s so little exchange between the for profit and not for profit world? As an industry we are often good at exchanging ideas and sometimes even results – at national and international fundraising conferences, in seminars, training courses and other get-togethers of fundraisers and marketers. But its fairly rare that you’ll see a voice from outside the sector on the agenda.
A quick look at the International Fundraising Congress coming up next week reveals just 3 speakers (out of 75) who are representing something other than a charity or a charity supplier. The Swiss Fundraising Association’s fundraising day had no one speaking from outside the sector; neither did the UK’s national convention. Of course some of the speakers at these meetings may have worked outside the sector in another life and many will reference commercial marketing knowledge.
But why the lack of external ideas and challenge to our charity thinking? Is it because we think we have nothing to learn from commercial marketing or research? Or because its too difficult to secure the participation of the leading lights from other industries? Are we more comfortable washing around the same old knowledge from within our world? Or do outsiders just charge too much to present?
And are we missing out?
My personal view is yes! When I look back to things that have made a impact on me as a fundraiser they have often come from outside; insights into the psychology of giving from an American professor of psychology, a presentation on membership Manchester United style by their head of marketing, an hour with the Body Shop in a painfully honest appraisal of how poor charities are at cause related marketing – I could go on.
All of these were sessions that made we either go away and do my job differently or changed the way I think about fundraising. And to be honest although I’ve seen some good charity presentations over the years – I’m hard pressed to think of one that has had the same impact.
Its easy to do what other charities do – its hard to innovate, so let’s challenge ourselves to think beyond what’s already tried and tested by our colleagues in our markets and grab new ideas or learning wherever it comes from.