FIA Conference - Embrace Change
6 March 2009 at 1:35 pm
By Jill Ruchel
Sean Triner kicked off the 2009 Fundraising Institute Australia Annual conference with an impassioned call for charities to abandon mediocrity and complacency, and embrace change. Pro Bono Australia contributor and fundraising consultant Jill Ruchel reports on a highlight of Day one of the conference.
Delivering the Syd Herron Plenary as the first session of the conference, Sean Triner warned charities against ‘recession suicide’ – downgrading fundraising activity on the grounds of worry and shock headlines about what might happen, rather than any hard evidence that their fundraising results had declined.
In previous downtimes, the charities that decreased their income, he argued, were those who reduced their fundraising activity.
It was inevitable that if they did less fundraising, they would raise less funds. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It was time, he argued, for charities to get creative, to look for new opportunities, to question how they have done things in the past and be willing to change.
Triner, head of Pareto Fundraising, went on to call for an end to complacency, parochialism and short-termism.
On complacency he asked, “How many charities will fire someone who’s useless?” a question greeted by nods and murmurs of agreement around the room. Yet keeping on someone who is not up to their job is deeply disrespectful to people who have donated funds to employ them.
On major charities considering how the downturn might affect their fundraising, “donors might be insulted that we as fundraisers might be sitting in a room wondering if they will walk away from charities they have been supporting for years”.
It’s an opportunity – we don’t need a recession to remind ourselves to look after our donors and track our fundraising and be effective.
“We need to pull our fingers out”, he said.
Donors want us to change, they want us to move on. In the UK, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and Cancer Research UK were highly competitive organisations each raising about 120 million pounds per year.
When they finally laid down the gauntlet and merged, they became an organisation raising 750,000 million pounds for cancer research, more than twice as much as the two organisations had raised separately.
He cited face-to-face fundraising as an example of a program which short-sightedness and prejudice had denied to many charities.
“Face-to-face has been the most effective mass recruitment method in fundraising history,” he argued.
“It has been proven to work in dozens of countries around the world, in all different languages and all types of areas, yet there are still people who won’t have their charities do it because ‘it won’t work for their charity or their area’ when the reality is that they as individuals ‘don’t like it’.”
But it works. The charities that invested in face to face early on are now the ones sitting on tens of thousands of monthly donors and millions of dollars of regular income.
“You haven’t got the right”, Triner declaimed, “to let your own personal views get in the way of the best interests of your charities”.
There are still organisations that refuse to telephone people. “I don’t work in the kind of organisation that ‘bothers its donors’ by calling them.”
“Where is the respect for donors in that?” he asked. “Don’t they deserve communication?”
“Those who tolerate short-termism bear personal responsibility for the subjugation of the sector.”
Showing Alan Moir’s famous Keating J curve cartoon from the 1980s, Triner called on charities and boards to recognise the importance of investment in fundraising.
“You have to invest to grow. It takes time to make money and it takes time to acquire new donors.”
“You need to be investing $100,000 to $200,000.”
There is no room for parochialism. There is no room for complacency. There is no room for short-termism. There are people who rely on us.
In closing, he concluded, there’s only two types of charities – those that are changing and growing and those that aren’t.
Triner was given the brief of “inspiring and frightening” charities, and inspire and frighten he did.
Contact Jill via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about Sean Triner – www.paretofundraising.com