Big Shoulders, Giant Sass: Lessons From the International Fundraising Conference
This week, I was at the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference in Boston. Many sessions were worth the time away, but there was one, in particular, to remember.
Three people took the stage. These three had begun their fundraising careers when Nelson Mandela was still in prison, when women were denied student loans and credit cards, and when abortion was illegal. These three people helped launch, build and grow organizations such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace International, Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women (NOW), Sierra Club, Heifer International and more.
Darryl Upsall, of Darryl Upsall Consulting International, based in Spain, threw out a pithy quote when asked to compare political fundraising to more traditional fundraising. “All fundraising is political fundraising,” he said. His point was that fundraising is an act of advocacy, of believing in something enough to ask people for money and time for that cause.
Jennie Thompson, representing Planned Parenthood Federation of America, then talked about the difference between NOW and Planned Parenthood. The two groups have somewhat of a shared history, with NOW having a different public stance than Planned Parenthood. Thompson explained that as necessary, saying, “Nobody wants an angry health-care provider.” It brought to mind my unfortunate mentioning to my OB/GYN that I had attended his alma mater’s rival. My waiting room time escalated sharply. He was less happy to see me it seemed.
Roger Craver, of The Agitator, talked about needing to have outrage. “You have to have a certain amount of outrage to do this job. You can’t put up with all the BS if you don’t have it.” He talked about the attributes of organizations that start movements. They have, he said, several things in common:
- A symbol
- A passionate leader
- Risk-taking and no-excuse execution
- Persistence, with failure not an option
Threats, he defined as:
- A go-along to get-along attitude
- Incremental execution and adherence to best practices
- Managerial and administration burnout
- Sector jealousy and resistance
- Government regulations
In the threats, I recognized most of my client organizations. I doubt they would be upset that I said so, given their experiences as individuals.
They talked about a lot more, and it was amazing to watch the shared heritage demonstrated through stories about the beginnings of organizations that we now take as part of our American do-gooder landscape.
It made me believe that I have chosen a place on the right side of history. It made me proud to be in the same hall as them, and to be part of the same effort as them.
Philanthropy—the love of mankind.
Otis spent most of his career in the education industry, working at the psychometric research and development firm MetaMetrics Inc., Pearson Education and others. Since 2013, he has focused on the nonprofit sector, applying psychology to fundraising and donor behavior at Turnkey. He is the co-author of the 2017 book, ”Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising” and is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit conferences. With Katrina VanHuss, he co-authors a blog at NonProfit PRO, “Peeling the Onion,” on the intersection of psychology and philanthropy.
Otis is a much-sought-after copywriter for nonprofit fundraising messages. He has written campaigns for UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, the USO and dozens of other organizations. He has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, where he also played on UVA’s first ACC champion basketball team.
Katrina VanHuss has helped national nonprofits raise funds and friends since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Her client’s successes and her dedication to research have made her a sought-after speaker, presenting at national conferences for Blackbaud, Peer to Peer Professional Forum, Nonprofit PRO, The Need Help Foundation and her clients’ national meetings. The firm’s work is underpinned by the study and application of behavioral economics and social psychology. Turnkey provides project engagements, coaching, counsel and staffing to nonprofits seeking to improve revenue or create new revenue. Her work extends into organizational alignment efforts and executive coaching.
Katrina also regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” When not writing or researching, Katrina likes to make things — furniture from reclaimed wood, new gardens, food with no recipe. Katrina’s favorite Saturday is spent cleaning out the garage, mowing the grass, making something new, all while listening to loud music by now-deceased black women, throwing in a few sets on the weight bench off and on, then collapsing on the couch with her husband Otis to gang-watch new Netflix series whilst drinking sauvignon blanc.
Katrina grew up on a Virginia beef cattle and tobacco farm with her three brothers. She is accordingly skilled in hand to hand combat and witty repartee — skills gained at the expense of her brothers. Katrina’s claim to fame is having made it to the “American Gladiator” Richmond competition as a finalist in her late 20s, progressing in the competition until a strangely large blonde woman knocked her off a pedestal with an oversized pain-inducing Q-tip. Katrina’s mantra for life is “Be nice. Do good. Embrace embarrassment.” Clearly she’s got No. 3 down.