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Why breaking the fundraising bubble is the key to success


4 March 2020 at 5:22 pm
Maggie Coggan
“Throw down that notepad, just sit down and just talk about real life,” fundraising expert says 


Maggie Coggan | 4 March 2020 at 5:22 pm


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Why breaking the fundraising bubble is the key to success
4 March 2020 at 5:22 pm

“Throw down that notepad, just sit down and just talk about real life,” fundraising expert says 

Fundraisers have lost the art of serendipity in their work, and need to step outside of their bubble if they want to get better results, UK fundraising expert Esther Kwaku says. 

Speaking to Pro Bono News following her keynote speech at this year’s Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA) Conference, Kwaku said that fundraisers were getting bogged down in the day to day of the job, to the detriment of the causes they were raising money for. 

“We get so caught up in the day to day when we become fundraisers. The pressure on the fundraising, the planning, the budgets, you’re on your toes all the time,” Kwaku said. 

“Serendipity is a reminder that we need to step out of that bubble to find other ways and ideas and solutions to keep ourselves inspired.”

Driven by an urge to work with more grassroots communities in rural areas, Kwaku quit her job in the charity sector, and founded the Nerve Network, a social enterprise that works in tandem with Ugandan-based organisations to support micro-businesses in the area. 

She said that when she stepped outside the sector, she met with a whole range of people that really helped shift her perspective. 

“In the last year, I’ve worked with robot scientists, I’ve worked with schools, and it’s given me such a range of perspectives I could have only ever gotten by surrounding myself with people from different walks of life,” she said.  

“It’s so important to remember that we are here to do something. We’re here to not only fundraise, but to make our fundraising transformational.” 

She said traveling to over 40 countries to meet new people and have different experiences had really helped her develop her skills, and she urged all fundraisers to do the same. 

“We need to get into the practice of hearing these stories more and get into the practice of connecting with people more,” she said. 

“So throw down that notepad, just sit down and just talk about real life. You have to make the connection with people in order to keep it authentic.” 

With dropping donation levels, and inaction on outdated state-based fundraising laws plaguing the Australian sector, Kwaku said it would take a collective effort and bravery to shift the mindset of fundraisers to overcome these issues. 

“You’re talking about breaking often decades of deeply embedded ways of working. People have to be brought along the journey and that has to reach from the frontline fundraiser level up to board level,” she said. 

“I feel sometimes that we’re looking to the side to see who else is going to do it but we just need a bit more bravery, to lean in and feel the fear and do it anyway.”


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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