Making the connection between fundraising and services

Dec 17, 2018

I have a friend who’s dying of ALS. My great-niece has Cystic Fibrosis and my mother died of breast cancer 6 years ago. These issues are all causes that fall into the realm of what we think of as traditional philanthropy. But traditional philanthropy is not what gets me fired up. To quote my colleague Rosemary Oliver who works at Amnesty International, “I want to create a better world, not just better conditions in the same world.”

I share these personal stories so you’ll know that I appreciate traditional philanthropy.  Why wouldn’t I? It raises funds for things that impact me, my family and so many of us. Moreover, I’m grateful for all of the lessons our profession has learned from traditional philanthropy. We have a body of knowledge. And new research is offering insights that sometimes supports and sometimes challenges industry convention and invites us to do our work better and smarter.

But I’m passionate about and involved in...

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Heteropatriarchy on Fire?? Learnings from a newbie podcaster

Dec 07, 2018

I mean, come on.. who calls a podcast Heteropatriarchy on Fire? Well, I do. And I’m loving all of the really interesting things I’m learning and the challenging conversations I’m having and the belly laughs I’m sharing as I interview some leaders in the world of philanthropy.

The podcast is actually called It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask (itdoesnthurttoaskpodcast.com) and this season, I’m interviewing Shift Disturbers in Philanthropy. Heteropatriarchy on Fire, which I mentioned above, is the title of episode two, in which I interview Dr. Krishan Mehta.

Here’s what I’m learning: there is a shift in the philanthropic sector, if you look for it. There is still a lot of traditional philanthropy going on quite successfully. And for those groups that can continue to have success with the traditional approaches, that’s awesome. But there are groups and individuals for whom the traditional, tried and trued approaches aren’t enough anymore....

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Beyond floating babies to social change philanthropy

Dec 01, 2018

For years, I used the story of babies floating in a river to describe the difference between social change organizations and more traditional charities. In case you’re not familiar with it, it goes like this: a passerby saw a baby floating down the river, jumped in and saved him. Day after day, more babies showed up in the river. The community organized, set up teams to watch for and save the babies floating down the river. Eventually, someone asked why the babies were showing up in the river in the first place. She headed upstream to see who was throwing these babies in the water and to determine how to help prevent it from happening.

While this is a powerful allegory describing social change work, it was missing something in terms of explaining the challenges faced with respect to raising funds for social change. Social change is nuanced, messy and difficult to measure. And raising money for social change efforts is hard because it’s difficult to create an...

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Fundraising Events: So much more than money

May 22, 2018

This kid slays me. She’s five years old and she’s my great-niece.

When Maddie was born she was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. We were afraid but her mom (my niece) and her dad were matter-of-fact: they weren’t going to let CF interfere with their daughter having an amazing life. Evening inhalers, medication and frequent hospital visits were the new normal. The other stuff didn’t change: rambunctious playing with all three kids, and family trips and picnics and hikes and time with friends, family and grandparents. They had it more or less under control.

Then, last year at the age of four, Maddie was diagnosed with leukemia. When I heard the news, I could hardly breathe. I couldn’t imagine how her parents would cope. But they are. Like parenting rock stars.

Everyone who knows Maddie just wants to do something – ANYTHING – to help. Both sets of grandparents jumped in to help with Maddie and her two siblings. Friends and family have delivered...

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The privilege of being a fundraiser

Mar 21, 2017

I love writing direct mail letters.

I love hearing people’s stories and why they’re passionate about the causes they support. And I’m curious about people, so writing direct mail letters gives me an opportunity to meet interesting people doing cool things.

If you know me, you may know that, given the opportunity, I can talk the ear off an elephant. But when I’m interviewing people for direct mail letters, I work really hard at listening. And when the stars are aligned, I barely even have to ask questions. I do my best to simply have a conversation and let the story unfold.

Today, the stars were aligned.

Today, I interviewed a volunteer who serves food at ehm (formerly Evangel Hall Mission), which offers a drop-in centre for street involved adults. I’ll be telling her story in ehm’s upcoming direct mail letter. I met her at her house because today was her baking day. Assembled on the counter when I arrived were 11 dozen muffins, ready to be served...

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