Ah, whimsy. It really is my thing. So I was totally tickled when Convio President Sheeraz Haji walked into a session being presented by Scottish fundraising powerhouse Bernard Ross at the Bridge Conference in D.C. last month. Sheeraz is quite the nice guy, but it wasn’t his mere presence that gave me the giggles.
He walked into the room about halfway through the session, as if on cue, just as Bernard was finishing up saying something very close to, “There’s a session in the next room about fundraising on the Internet. I wanted to stick my head in the door and shout, ‘The Internet? Hello! The Internet happened 20 years ago. It’s done. Deal with it! Mobile, people. Mobile!’”
Convio, of course, is a company dedicated to helping nonprofits raise money. On. The. Internet.
I don’t know how many people caught the timing or knew who Sheeraz is, but to me it was one of this terrific conference’s more sublime moments.
Actually, Bernard was on a roll. He and fellow Briton/fundraiser/smart ass Tony Elischer spent two whole sessions zinging Creative Direct Response’s Geoff Peters about how “over” direct-mail fundraising is, as well.
It was all in good fun but, more importantly, the banter among these brilliant folks — and the many others like them who spoke — was perfectly aligned with the theme of the conference and the place where the development sector is right now: It’s all about integration.
No one is going to yell, “This doesn’t work anymore. Throw it away and try this!” (Well, Bernard kind of did … but he’s a special case.) The challenge no longer is just to be daring and creative. That might have been true at the beginning of the millennium when the sector, in general, was abuzz over the ability to accept donations online. Now you have to be daring and creative and centered enough to know how to use bright ideas, new technologies and cutting-edge strategies to both complement and bolster what you’ve been doing all along. Sure, some of the old is rubbish. But so is some of the new. And there’s gold to be found in both camps.
If there’s just one thing that Bridge attendees should have gotten from the conference, it’s that silos and single-mindedness not only are passé, but also are dangerous to the success of your fundraising efforts and, ultimately, your mission. Great fundraisers understand that. And instead of scurrying to the safety of what they know or jumping into uncharted waters with unrealistically high expectations, they’re wrapping their arms around the whole big mess, figuring out what works and then putting it to work for them.