George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

Tallahassee Democra⁠t⁠ — Bucke⁠t⁠s of ⁠i⁠deas from fundra⁠i⁠s⁠i⁠ng conference

By: The James Madison Institute / 2015

Tallahassee Democrat
“Buckets of ideas from fundraising conference”
April 4, 2015
By Alyce Lee Stansbury, Notes on NonprofitsI just returned from the International Fundraising Conference hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. My mind is overflowing with all the information I heard, people I met, notes I took, and new ideas I have. I got to hear Whoopi Goldberg talk about anonymous giving, which she does by sending books to prisons. I also heard best-selling author Seth Godin remind us that if failure is not an option then neither is success. He went on to say the person who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck.Too often, nonprofits are prevented from trying new strategies and possibly failing because funders and private donors aren’t willing to invest in a new idea that might not work. The challenge, of course, is it also might change lives for the better. He went on to show a picture of a dandelion that reproduces, not by doing it right, but by doing it haphazardly all the time. Good food for thought when thinking about giving and investing in causes advanced by nonprofits.Seth also reminded volunteer and staff fundraisers to treat different people differently. No one wants to be industrialized or grouped into a group. People want personal attention and when making a donation they deserve to get it. People also like doing what other people are doing so nonprofits need to create a “cultural imperative” based on the premise that “people like us do things like this.”When I heard this I immediately thought of last summer’s ice bucket challenge. Seth’s advice may be simple and straightforward but it’s also critical and a must do. I laughed out loud at Seth’s definition of a meeting: a group of people in a circle waiting for someone else to take responsibility. Think about that the next time you attend a meeting at your workplace, child’s school, civic club, or favorite nonprofit! Finally, Seth reminded us to be vulnerable, be real, and do work that matters. I couldn’t agree more.One of my favorite sessions was called “I Wish I’d Thought of That” and featured 19 presenters who each had seven minutes to share one best idea they’ve seen actually work. One of the speakers was author Tom Ahern who I have mentioned in my presentations and this column several times. Tom says ugly works, tacky works, corny, embarrassing and messy all work in print and online. I love this message because too often, nonprofits spend enormous amounts of time writing perfect paragraphs that no one reads and publishing perfect photographs that don’t resonate with anyone. Tom reminded me nonprofits can’t be afraid to visit the scary place he calls “risklandia” where new crazy, corny ideas really resonate with donors.One of these crazy ideas is the Blue Pig Campaign at Emory University. This campaign is designed to encourage students to become donors to Emory’s Annual Fund beginning their first day in college. Every student receives a blue plastic piggy bank with messages about the importance of giving small amounts to Emory to support scholarships and other student initiatives. The college hosts piggy roundups and a pig-napping in which a modest ransom is demanded by the end of the semester to ensure the Blue Pig’s safe release. There’s a Blue Pig Facebook page, Twitter account, student and parent mailings, and t-shirts with the slogan “Feed Me, Love the Blue Pig.” Emory also created a student philanthropy board and the campaign has been widely successful. Students love the blue pig and the number of gifts from undergraduates grew by 157 percent in the first year.An outrageous idea came from the San Francisco Zoo. For Valentine’s Day, for donors who made a gift of a certain amount, the zoo delivered a love note with a koala bear or flamingo to the love of their life. Donors could also send plastic hissing cockroaches or a plush scorpion to their ex delivered in a red heart shaped box. Simone Joyeaux, ACFRE, encouraged nonprofits to ask more open ended, “cage rattling” questions to ignite meaningful conversations. Questions like “What are our values?” and “What would it take for our organization to…”, and one of my favorites, “What would be the impact of a million dollar gift on our organization?” or “What would be the impact of the loss of a million dollar gift or grant to our organization?” Ask each one of these questions at your next four board meetings and I guarantee attendance and participation at board meetings will skyrocket.Next year’s national AFP conference will be March 20-22, 2016 in Boston, Simone Joyeaux will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Florida AFP conference June 7-9 in Jacksonville. Learn more at last week’s column, there’s been a change to the James Madison Institute debate on April 15 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Turnbull Center. The new topic is “Money, Politics, and the IRS: What’s the Future of Charitable Giving?” The debaters will be Public Citizen versus the Heritage Foundation who will address how the government should regulate nonprofits. Lee Stansbury, CRFE is President of Stansbury Consulting and attended her first national AFP conference in 1995. Her column writing partner is Kelly Otte, Executive Director of PACE Center for Girls. Share your great conference take-aways with them at