Build Your Own Symposium—Educating Your Nonprofit Constituents
Education and communication are vital attributes when working in the nonprofit arena. All of us work with a variety of nonprofit constituents. It is imperative that various players in the nonprofit universe continually learn the same language and grow as professionals. As executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division, I was recently discussing the concept of education with my boss, Major Bob Webster, Divisional Commander of the Indiana Division of The Salvation Army and Dr. David King, Karen Lake Buttrey Director, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving and Assistant Professor, Philanthropic Studies, Lake Institute on Faith and Giving.
The institute, established in 2002, is an important component of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indiana University in Indianapolis. The Lake Institute of Faith & Giving mission is to foster a greater understanding of the ways faith both inspires and informs giving by providing knowledge, education and training. Faith-based organizations can receive customized training, and leaders can attend seminars to learn about giving and how to create cultures of generosity.
Major Webster, Dr. King and I felt that building a symposium with the Lake Institute at the helm would assist The Salvation Army Indiana Division in its future fundraising efforts. The Salvation Army is a Christian organization. The premise of the symposium was for individuals to learn about philanthropy from a ministerial perspective in conjunction with a lay person perspective.
The definition of a symposium is a meeting or conference for the discussion of some subject that also involves a collection of opinions expressed by several persons on a given topic. We decided to build a symposium based upon 35 selected individuals representing a range of organizational activities and functions that included fundraising.
Individuals that participated in this two-day symposium on religion and philanthropy included fundraising staff, officers (they are ministers), advisory board volunteer members, donors and organizational leadership from various geographical areas. Dr. King directed the symposium. He has a Ph.D. in historical studies from Emory University.
Various topics reviewed by Dr. King at the symposium were as follows:
- Navigating the Altered Landscape of Religious Giving
• Personal Philanthropic Autobiography
• Shifting Paradigms-Generosity as the Key to Renewal
• From Institution-Centered to Donor-Centered Giving
• What Have We Learned
• Fundraising as Ministry
• Why People Give
• Values, Mission, Vision and Storytelling
• The Fundraising Toolkit-Tools to Shift your Organizational Culture
• Shaping a Theology of Money
• Implementation Plan and Wrap-Up
Dr. King encouraged questions and discussion. The room was arranged in small group settings. Many individuals shared their own beliefs, experiences and ideas on an array of topics. Several books, articles and other information were provided as examples for further learning on various subjects. At the end of day one, individuals separated into groups that went to dinner to discuss their own ideas for growth and progress.
At the end of the symposium, a survey was given to the participants. Survey results indicated that the group truly enjoyed the symposium. The survey indicated that the group takeaways were greater knowledge of the fundraising process, better understanding of how to work with donors, understanding that relationships are key to fundraising success, storytelling is a must to communication integration and understanding how and why people give is important.
The group wanted to learn more about donor expectations, theology of money, how to solicit prospects, understand the language of donors and expanded fundraising principle information. There was a universal feeling that the presentation of theory and practice experiences was greatly relevant and appreciated.
I encourage every nonprofit professional to build their own symposium based upon their own constituency and organizational need. Seek to obtain instructors to present material unique to your organization. Your attendees should represent a variety of entities including administration, staff, volunteers, donors and board members. These participants need to own the concept of fundraising. This concept has different connotations to each person. I encourage you to continue to learn how to engage others and through education and idea sharing, your chances for success will improve.
As Dr. King stated in the symposium on religion and philanthropy, “True fundraising is having a ‘conversation’ with your prospect or donor while the donor is engaged in an activity for the organization.” Once you engage them to talk freely about themselves and your organization, endless possibilities for donor growth and development exist.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, educator and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 10 years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 26 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division plus Adjunct Professor for Olivet Nazarene University. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.