Paul Pelletier was adamant. There are changes looming, and many are not good. The affable president of Direct Campaign Solutions bantered with the audience at his “Fundraising Legislation and Its Impact” session at AFP’s recent conference in Baltimore. Among the topics: Senate Finance Committee recommendations that would severely curtail gifts in kind; postal reforms that would make it financially burdensome to personalize your DM; and the push for more government-led accountability from nonprofits.
It was an engrossing and unsettling exchange. Engrossing because it covered issues that could have serious implications for nonprofit fundraisers. And unsettling for two reasons.
For starters, the level of ignorance in that room was frightening. I use “ignorance” in the truest sense of the word — i.e., lack of knowledge. But, hey, that’s what the session was for, and kudos to the folks who showed up.
But more disconcerting was the fact that you could count the people in attendance on your fingers and the toes of one foot — and have some digits left over. I’ve learned a lot since taking this job in 2003, but I’m still no expert when it comes to new and confusing legislation and other proposals. And I know there are plenty of people who share that particular ignorance. What I don’t know is where those people were while that session was going on.
Things are constantly changing. A new scythe starts to swing over the fundraising sector every day. If you aren’t keenly aware of it and don’t know enough about the mechanism to artfully dodge its blade, your organization is going to get its wings clipped.
There are myriad sources of information to help keep you abreast of pending changes, but don’t count on any single one. Seek out and suck up every piece of data you can find. Chew on it, talk it over with your colleagues. Do anything you need to do to stay current — and active. Stick close to your industry organizations and follow their lead when it comes to letting politicos and other rule makers know how you feel about proposals that affect the industry.