Global fundraising is a rich and complex tapestry, and the United States, like it or not, is a relatively isolated part of it. U.S. fundraisers have direct mail down pretty pat, of course, and are latching on to e-mail and Internet strategies. But across the pond, as they say, your counterparts are developing campaigns for iPods and mobile phones. They’re on the streets, in people’s faces. And they’ve “gone guerilla.” In developing countries, folks are trying things on a wing and prayer, simply because there are no precedents or even infrastructures to support the tried and true.
Speakers at the 26th annual International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands last month urged attendees to stop chasing best practices of other nonprofits and start grabbing some of the thunder that energizes for-profit marketing (sans the corporate greed and shaky ethics, of course). To chuck out bottom-line thinking and take more chances. To not only stay on the cutting edge but to create it, rather than being content with just playing catch-up.
They called for a revolution, rather than an evolution, in fundraising. And they suggested that those who raise money for nonprofit organizations need to be passionate not only about their missions but about the very act and art of fundraising itself.
I know the readers of this magazine are passionate. I know that U.S. fundraisers care deeply and strive for excellence. But I also know that I wasn’t the same person when I left the IFC as when I arrived. Like I often am when attending U.S.-based conferences, I was awed by the level of competency and expertise I encountered, and humbled by both the passion and the compassion of the people I met. But I also was moved beyond words by the global vision of these international delegates.
I thought it would be phenomenal if someone from every nonprofit organization in the country could attend the IFC at least once, could find themselves in that delicious mix of languages, accents, skin tones and national mindsets and start to make connections with their comrades in development from around the world — if they actually could see themselves as part of the Big Picture.
Do you need a world vision to feed children in New York City or save dogs in Chicago? Probably not. But child welfare and animal protection are universal concerns, just like almost any other cause you can name. Fundraisers, no matter where they’re from, can only benefit from connecting with their colleagues regionally, nationally and globally — because passion translates, and in order to change the world you have to live in it. Fully.