News analysis: Sector must tread boldly to thrive

Georgina Lock

Three experts give their views on the International Fundraising Conference in Amsterdam.

Clad beguilingly in a tight polyester Star Trek outfit, Lorna Somers took up the mantra of the Starship Enterprise crew when she urged 800 delegates at the International Fundraising Congress in Amsterdam to "boldly go where no one has gone before".

Although undoubtedly a curious get-up for a conference speaker, the outfit donned by the vice-president of Canada's McMaster University Foundation was used to demonstrate that fundraisers "must be prepared to take risks".

In the closing plenary at the 25th anniversary congress, organised by the Resource Alliance, Somers reflected on the theme of the event - 'Tomorrow starts today'. She spoke about the importance of finding new fundraising techniques and adopting more personal and continuing relationships with supporters.

Her speech concluded the conference, at which about 60 experts from across the world shared their ideas for changing the face of fundraising. Delegates were urged to take these ideas on board and not be afraid to make mistakes.

But among the dozens of concepts floated, which ones will turn out to be the most bankable?

In a bid to find out, Third Sector turned to three experts, who told us which ideas they think fundraisers should "boldly" take forward.


Elischer says that "investing in yourself as a fundraiser" is key. Many of the sessions encouraged fundraisers to invest in themselves in terms of belief, attitude, skills and passion.

Elischer says: "When you are in front of the donor, you are the cause - and you have to have the extra dimension of the cause to excite people."

According to Elischer, there's a lot more disposable cash around these days, so it was refreshing to hear the congress discuss whether fundraisers were fully engaging with supporters and asking them for enough.

Another exciting element for Elischer was the promotion of creativity, which doesn't require huge resources. "It is going to be a vital skill for the future," he predicts. "Those creative charities will capture the market and move ahead of the pack."

According to Elischer, one long-overdue discussion point at this year's conference was the move towards a "middle ground", where the interaction between charity and donor is more intimate but not necessarily face-to-face. Elischer forecasts that this fundraising model will be "big" in the next five years.


Hunter was similarly enthused by personal fundraising. The conference gave British charities the chance to learn from organisations in the US and Canada as well as from developing countries, he argues.

Hunter says he hopes that, as a result of the conference, fundraisers from the UK will pursue the more up-front approach adopted in the US, which he describes as volunteer, peer-to-peer fundraising. He cites this as a big gap in the UK's fundraising portfolio.

Another highlight for Hunter was the sessions that focused on connecting with the cause. "You hear again and again that if you don't invest in your people internally and make sure they are passionate about the cause, things will become stale," he says.

The 'Think Big' sessions explored this idea, suggesting that from the post-room to the director's office, staff need to be open and passionate about the cause.


The 'Think Big' sessions were also a feature for Duncan, who says they provided a positive shift in focus away from the practicalities of fundraising.

Instead, people were talking "beyond tomorrow and quick fixes", she says.

According to Duncan, this showed that with so much competition for donors, it was "important to keep fundraising human".

With charities having to keep up with the many technological advances, Duncan highlights the sessions on new media fundraising as among the most helpful. These ranged from over-arching ideas on technology through to the specifics.

Duncan adds: "I learnt that someone looks at a web page for an average of 42 seconds - which means you've got to keep it simple."

The global perspective of the conference gave those who attended the opportunity to think beyond UK shores, according to Duncan. "It helps to get a real sense of what's coming, but also reminds us of the grass-roots elements," she says. "Maybe some people in the sector have become complacent about those."

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in
RSS Feed

Third Sector Insight

Sponsored webcasts, surveys and expert reports from Third Sector partners

Third Sector Logo

Get our bulletins. Read more articles. Join a growing community of Third Sector professionals

Register now