Building the bright future of fundraising
Long before it became a catch phrase, I remember one of my early instructors at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (then the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy) saying—as fundraisers, “we sell hope.” He went on to explain the phenomenon of fundraising and how people willingly and gratefully give money for the benefit of someone else—someone or something that the donor might never meet or encounter. From the outside in, the act of fundraising may not make any sense. As the professor explained, in selling hope, we help people to believe in something beyond themselves and their own lives to believe that they have the ability to invest in change and create a legacy.
The philosophy of selling hope and gaining the trust of individuals and corporations to use their philanthropy to better the world was an exciting concept to me and one that has inspired me from that day on.
As a recent first time instructor at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s Fund Raising School, I really didn’t know what to expect. In the nearly twenty years since I had taken the class, so much in fundraising had changed. The explosion of social media, crowd funding and online giving all provided much more opportunities to communicate with and engage donors. In that same timeframe, fundraising has solidified its practice as a profession. Evaluation of fundraising efforts has become an emphasis of a solid fundraising program and with greater automation of activities, measuring success is easier than ever to do.
So, I wondered was hope still part of the equation? Were students today motivated today by this concept?
Here’s what I learned: the future of fundraising is bright. In fact, the future of fundraising is brighter than it has ever been and not for many of the reasons one might think.
The future is bright because of the people coming into this profession. The quality of the candidates in the field coupled with the advances in technology and evaluation will provide some of the most unique, effective and creative fundraising strategies we have ever seen. This will lead to an unparalleled success for the profession and ultimately, of course, to the causes supported by fundraising.
The class that I taught brought such a unique combination of people together. There were young, aggressive creative types with their first job out of college. There were a number of retirees from other professions called to serve a cause through a fundraising job. There were highly trained medical and legal professionals pursuing their dreams beyond their current career path. Each brought unique skill sets and experiences but were united in their desire to do something beyond themselves—united in hope.
I guess some things never change.