National Philanthropy Day: Make Dreams of Donors, Volunteers Come True (Part 1)
Every year, each chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals celebrates National Philanthropy Day in the fall. On Wednesday, I attended the 28th Annual National Philanthropy Day Awards Luncheon for the AFP Greater Philadelphia Chapter, where a distinguished group of fundraisers were honored. You can view the award honorees here.
The luncheon itself was wonderful, celebrating some of the most generous and hardworking philanthropists and fundraisers in the field for all the great work they do, but it was the educational panel beforehand that was really intriguing. Moderated by AFP-GPC Board Chair Jaime L. Howard, president of Jaime L. Howard LLC, the panel discussion included three prominent members of the Philadelphia philanthropy community: David Auten, former president of the Union League of Philadelphia and the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award winner; Liz Rizor, president of the Board of Associates of Fox Chase Cancer Center and a winner of the 2012 Outstanding Volunteer Fundraising Group award; and ACFRE Robbe Healey, a member of the International Board of Directors of the AFP and past chair, as well as the 2013 Barbara Marion Award for Outstanding Leadership to AFP winner.
With Howard steering the discussion, all three panelists stressed the importance of making the dreams of donors and volunteers come true when fundraising. Really, that's the only thing that matters — not your needs or your definitions or your wishes.
Here are some of the poignant points shared during the National Philanthropy Day educational panel:
"[With the Buffett/Gates Giving Pledge] there's a debate on whether to let the billionaires decide who gets the money or to get a group to go ask them for money. It's a real opportunity to get real dollars."
"With volunteers and donors, ask for advice, not just money."
"If you want someone to evolve in the organization, first make sure to get names right, as well as dietary preferences if meals are involved, and talk to volunteers about their family, their hopes, what they're doing. Some people call that cultivation. Really, it's just being genuine and making a friend with the prospect."
"Entrepreneurs are very helpful on nonprofits boards."
"The word philanthropy often implies big gifts in people's minds, but the small amounts, the lower-level donors are just as important. No amount is too small, and building on the small gifts is important."
"Working with volunteers is about two words: Thank you. It's constantly in the back of my mind. Sometimes we forget because we're all busy and have so much to do, but don't forget to say thank you — and maybe provide a small token. It can mean so much to volunteers. Without volunteers, we can't do what we do."
"Personal experience is so big. I had experience with Fox Chase being a patient there, which made it easy to become a volunteer. Engage children and families more to be involved. Find ways to harness children early on and get the ball started from the very beginning. Find ways to do more community events if you can, ways to bring outsiders in."
"Philanthropy has the greatest impact on an organization when leaders think constantly and critically on funds and how to leverage those funds — when fundraising is fully integrated into the organization. You have to look at the biggest gifts and the small donors and value them all. And look holistically at all opportunities — grants, big donors, small donors."
"Fundraising works best by not thinking of us but by thinking of the donor. It's a tightrope we walk. Philanthropy is not about us. It's about dreams. … It's not about money. Donors who have the greatest feeling of joy in philanthropy feel their dreams align with the mission of the organization."
"I'm a fan of writer Jim Collins, who says, 'Do what you're good at, not what you want to be good at.' Be true to what you are, not what other organizations are."
"Why do we fail? Because we cut corners. You can't cut corners on the best practices."
"Do it right and do it well."
"Young donors want to engage with us hands-on before they go to the next step. We must work in a culture that is not conducive to that because historically that hasn't been the case. We have to find ways to let people spend four hours with us, not 40 years with us. We must be willing to do things so people can test-drive us on their own terms — our mold is useless to integrate more people."
"It's an interesting irony that nonprofits are characterized by many as risk-averse. The people who developed organizations to solve problems in ways they never have before were certainly taking risks. It's a disservice to the sector to be risk-averse. Common sense can't be abandoned, but clinging to the past just to cling to the past doesn't continue the legacy of the founders. We need to give space to new ideas, entrepreneurialism."
"The organizations that are successful today are the the ones that embraced new ideas and change, who took risks."
"If you want change to happen, it can't be about you. Everyone wants credit early on for their work, but it's not about you. It's about what's best for the organization."
"Find a partner who gets it, who wants to move the needle and be the change that's needed to make a real impact on the organization."
"Do what you fit into. Do what you're good at. At every job you take, feel a passion for the mission. Work where you belong and see changes you need to improve the organization and yourself."
Check back next week for more insights shared by Auten, Rizor and Healey at the Philadelphia National Philanthropy Day educational session.