Sector pays tribute to fundraising expert Tony Elischer, who has died of cancer

Tony Elischer
Tony Elischer

Tributes have been paid to Tony Elischer, the founder and chief executive of Think Consulting Solutions, who died of cancer this week.

Elischer, who was in his 50s and died at his home in the Milton Keynes area on Tuesday morning, according to friends, had a career spanning more than 30 years in the not-for-profit sector.

Elischer was a board member of the Journal of Non-profit and Voluntary Sector Marketing and a former chair of the Resource Alliance’s International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands and International Workshop on Resource Mobilization. He was a fellow of the Institute of Fundraising, vice-president of international strategy at the fundraising agency Blakely and a keen blogger on the website 101fundraising.

Stephen George, a fundraising consultant and vice-chair of the IoF, who knew Elischer for more than 30 years, told Third Sector that Elischer had been a consistent friend, mentor and confidante to him throughout his career and he had always admired his energy and can-do attitude. "He was the type of person you could not see for four or five months, then you would go for a coffee, a beer or a meal with him and all would be fine."

He said Elischer had undergone tests for cancer during the Christmas period of 2014 and was diagnosed with the disease shortly after.

George said Elischer had introduced him to the Resource Alliance’s International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands – which Elischer attended for about 25 consecutive years – and was involved with the IoF when it was first established in 1983. He said Elischer was blunt and "never mucked around" with the truth, which made him an excellent source of advice. George said he also tended a garden of which he was very proud.

Michelle Chambers, managing director at Think, said she had worked with Elischer for a decade. She said it had been a privilege to work under his leadership, he had been an enormous inspiration to her and he was unparalleled in the sector for his creativity. "I know nobody like him for his enthusiasm for the voluntary sector and his passion for fundraising."

Richard Taylor, chair of the IoF and director of marketing and fundraising at Macmillan Cancer Support, said in a statement: "Tony was a true pioneer of fundraising as we know it today. In his early career as a practitioner, he paved the way for the future success of the charities he worked for, including what is now Cancer Research UK. He was a truly inspiring fundraising director."

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, said: "As well as being a fundraising guru of worldwide acclaim, Tony never ceased to be a true friend to the IoF over the whole of its history, whether fronting inspiring plenary sessions at convention, supporting young and up-and-coming fundraisers, or simply acting as a wise counsel and mentor to many that met him, with his unique style of encouragement and enthusiasm." 

A frequent speaker at fundraising conferences across the globe, Elischer often gave presentations designed to challenge thinking in the sector.

During a presentation at the IoF national convention in July 2014, he said that more fundraisers should not ignore multiculturalism if they wanted to secure more donations from ethnic minorities, religious groups and the gay community.

At the 2013 IoF convention, he kicked off the gathering by calling for a future of "fundraising without the fundraising", saying that not always asking for money straight away could inspire people to give more in the future and become more committed investors in charities.

Later that year, he told delegates at the International Fundraising Congress that fundraisers should "get out of their comfort zones" and experiment with new fundraising ideas.

He told Third Sector at the time: "A fundraiser's job is to push to the edge, to make sensibly informed decisions and, frankly, sometimes to test, fail and learn. If you are not constantly testing things, but insist on doing things the same old way, you are doing a disservice to your charity and the sector because you are not helping us to move on."

Elischer is survived by his wife Nicky, who is a director at Think.

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