Fundraising has suffered from a transactional, derivative and acquisition mindset forever. We are haunted by our bake-sale origins.
Being almost 20 years in the charitable sector I have become a career-anthropologist. Observing the careers and strategies of leaders and organizations I admire. It’s what leads me personally on my own career path to specialize in ‘gift-planning’ while most of the sector is always trying to maximize major gifts. Now in 2019, they are one in the same.
Long game fundraising, is about truly being as donor-centred as possible. It feels almost impossible to let go of our annual operational needs, our campaign goals and insatiable need to fill our events with bodies – and we don’t have to! Why must everything be an “or” when it needs to really be an “and”. We can do both things at once. Organizations need to operate and function, but walking with a donor who loves our organization, through their own evolution of how they feel about our cause and mission, can lead to not just deeper relationships but larger and larger donations. I’ve worked in planned giving roles for most of my career because when I started out in 1999 it was clear that this is where Canada’s demographics were clearly going – it still is! We are on the cusp of the ‘elderfication’ of Canadian society, life and culture. It will mean a much longer game is required, and considering most people will hold their wealth in assets and not cash – are fundraisers and fundraising ready?
No, solidly, no.
I follow a cadre of legacy-marketing gunslingers, many of whom are in fact decades-long direct mail experts who saw the writing on the wall a long time ago. Leah Eustace, John Lepp, Jen Love, Harvey McKinnon, David Kravichuck, Aimee Lindenberger – there are many more on this list. They all preach, teach and walk the talk of #DonorLove and Donor Centeredness but I can tell you, I can hear their frustration at charity’s obsession with short term profit and short game relationship building. Last year I joined the team at the Canadian Association of Gift Planners full time because I couldn’t sit on the sidelines any more as the wave of the great Canadian wealth transfer is cresting, and most charities are not surfing it, they are sitting still as it passes them by. Let me tell you the dangerous lie at the centre of “planned giving” that it’s a “huge adjustment in how you fundraise” and a “highly technical knowledge base”. It’s a big barrier to the movement we’re trying to lead at CAGP to advance strategic gift planning. Playing the long game in fundraising means integration, but still based in conversation and donor engagement. Connecting with your donor from acquisition but stewarding them for life as they grow their giving to what is often called the “ultimate gift” that is a bequest. Jump in today, and raise more forever.
Playing the long game in your career, is about playing chess not checkers. I meet fundraisers of all ages and stages who are zig zagging from job to job. And contrary to popular belief it’s not about the money, it’s more about the opportunity to do things the way they know it needs to be done and having leadership that will let you be the professional fundraiser you need to be. Leadership matters, and many times people are leaving bad bosses and poorly led organizations. So take your time, do your homework and play the long game. Mentors can help you with this. Create your own “Personal Board of Directors”. Having a group of mentors to help you get to where you need to go with advice, insight, sponsorship and support. But remember, you can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you want to go! So spend some time thinking deeply about not just your career but what you want to do with your time, what a job, a team and an organization needs to look like for you to be fulfilled. Quality of life gets more important as you move through life’s ages and stages, so consider that in your career planning too. And when you have a plan, tell your board! Let people conspire for your success, look out for you, help you make the moves to play the long game and get the job of your dreams and then the one that’s beyond those dreams too. That’s what organic evolution looks like, playing the long game.
Ps. Feel free to cheat and accelerate your progress on these two ideas. Touch base with CAGP on all things gift planning and talk to the Fundraising Leadership team about coaching to help you build your board of directors and make your career plan!
Paul Nazareth has worked in philanthropy in Canada for almost 20 years. As a fundraiser for charities, philanthropic advisor in a financial institution and now philanthrovangelist as VP Education & Development for the Canadian Association of Gift Planners. He is on the board of several charities, is Chair of the Advisory Board at the Humber College postgraduate fundraising program, on the Advisory Council of the Carleton Masters in Nonprofit Leadership program, a speaker with the Association of Fundraising Professionals, a faculty instructor on Advisor Education with Knowledge Bureau. BUT his curiosity has led him to start a men’s eCommerce fashion brand, a wedding planning service, and teaching skills on networking and personal branding through walking workshops and wacky ideas. He is quietly obsessed with pickles, oysters and the global history of olive oil. Find him on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.