Philanthropy is not fundraising – it’s a way of life

Philanthropy is not fundraising – it’s a way of life

When fundraisers get together, they like to compare notes. The long recession has created turbulence in the day-to-day operations of nonprofit organizations, which are feeling more pressure than ever to improve their fundraising efforts.

So when direct marketing fundraisers and marketing professionals gather in August at the 7th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference to discuss what’s new in attracting customers and donors, the economic downturn will get mentioned more than once.

When one of its guest speakers stands up to talk to attendees at the conference, he’s going to tell them something they may not expect.

“Philanthropy is not tougher in difficult economic times,” says Tony Myers, PhD, CFRE, who started his own philanthropy consulting firm, Myers and Associates, after a long career in development and major gifts in higher education in his native Canada.

Dr. Tony Myers

“I don’t talk a lot about fundraising or development, I talk about philanthropy and for me it is a big difference.”

Dr. Myers sees fundraising as a skill; and development as a discipline.

“I view philanthropy as a philosophy, one that understands that the key to success is understanding the donor’s values and needs,” he says. “It all starts there.”

As a result, Dr. Myers doesn’t view his job through a transactional lens.

“If it’s a cash grab, I may get it once, but only once,” he stated.

Dr. Myers, who admits that he works at the top of what he calls “the fundraising donor pyramid”, is often working for clients who are looking for donations in the six and seven figure range. His previous work at the University of Calgary and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) prepared him well for that work.

He has learned that philanthropy is a relationship driven enterprise. And the most important relationship to develop is the one with the donor.

“That means the key component is identifying and really getting to know a donor whose values and needs match what your organization cares about,” said Dr. Myers.

To deepen a relationship, he urges people that he consults with to always think about achieving three things.

“Be willing to take the risk to have a good relationship, be willing to give trust to your donor, and always be transparent about your need,” he said. “A great relationship depends on those elements and when they exist, magical things can happen.”

Dr. Myers has spent a lifetime pondering what makes people act. He laughingly calls himself a “research practitioner”.

“But think about it,” he says. “We always have to be thinking about why people do what they do and why people give what they give.”

Attendees at The Bridge Conference, which will be held August 7-9 at the Gaylord National Conference Center near Washington D.C., will get a chance to act like a donor. Dr. Myers is scheduled to give three separate presentations at the conference. The presentations aren’t really speeches, they are experiences.

By engaging in conversations, role playing and other interactive methods, Dr. Myers promises the conference participants will go deeper than they normally do when they discuss development and fundraising.

“They’ll come out of the process knowing that deeper understanding can get you to deeper pockets,” he stated.

That can’t be a bad thing for direct marketers and fundraisers.