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#68 Snowflakes are killing fundraising

It might be Christmas, but snowflakes are ruining fundraising! Hold on tight for a mighty whinge aimed at the easily-offended.

If the role of your company is to share stories of the disaffected, disassociated, disenfranchised and discriminated peoples and animals of our planet and in turn inspire those able to make a positive difference to stand up against these inequalities and injustices, why would hire fundraisers who are unwilling and unable to do so?

We all know that at the heart of great fundraising is great story telling, so why do we throw brightly coloured t-shirts onto the people who will not do the cause and beneficiaries they are representing the honour and respect of sharing the stories that most clearly stake their claim for our fundraised dollars?

When arriving in Australia seven years ago, I was taken-aback with how sales-oriented the Antipodean fundraising market was. Fundraisers were being instructed to nod and ask ‘yes questions’ at the end of every sentence, followed by a forceful persistence that stepped over the line of my mild English sensibilities. But at least these fundraisers, much like the European ones I’d known and loved, weren’t afraid of telling a tough story to inspire a donor.

Over the last few years I’ve seen a definite slip. No longer are our frontline heroes encouraged to get to the truth of a situation telling warts and all tales of suffering and success. No longer are our band of brothers and sisters armed to the teeth with the weapons of tribulation and triumph. Instead, they back away from anything that the left-leaning liberals find offensive or upsetting.

Those of you who know me know that I’m one of those left-leaning liberals that I complain about, but I need to draw a distinction. If I was afraid of having a hard conversation with a stranger, I would never have become a fundraiser. If I didn’t have a workable understanding of the subjects I have to talk about and the skill to navigate the potential minefield of my prospective donors I wouldn’t last one day in the job.

So why are we hiring these people to do such a tricky role?

If any of you are still reading, thank you for letting me get that off my chest. Now let’s add a whole bunch of caveats and disclaimers to those paragraphs.

Firstly, I admit that there are some subjects that all of us may feel uncomfortable talking about with a stranger. In my experience both fundraisers and donors share the same two responses to a major issue such as cancer or DV, that have impacted them personally.

They will either be the most passionate supporters of that cause, donating their time, money, blood, sweat and tears to ensure that no-one else must go through it. These people should be cherished for their generosity of spirit, or they will be the polar opposite. They do not want to hear words connected to that issue. They do not want to talk about their involvement and they might get angry with you for even looking at them. These people should be equally loved and cherished but are not the right candidates to fundraise for the cause on street corners.

Secondly, maybe the fundraisers are merely responding to their audience? With millennials becoming the largest group of Australian givers, our faithful fundraisers may be serving them the information they feel this group will respond to? The snowflakes are sprinkling their message over other snowflakes!

Technology, especially social media, has taught us that us humans can only respond to ten-second sound bites, click-bait headlines and vanilla content, so maybe our fundraisers feel that they are just responding to this? The good news for humanity is that we are on the cusp of a revolution. We are beginning to see a revival of long-form journalism, the invent of deep conversation podcasting and lectures where thousands of people fill the Opera house to hear discussions about hard topics.

Whether it is through the self-titled ‘intellectual dark web’ group or the four horsemen, regularly, millions of people tune-in to three-hour podcasts by their favourite interviewers offering them not just the siloed world view that we fear is destroying us, but a broad range of views and conversations played-out without editing or dumbing-down for the audience or splitting them into left versus right or good versus bad.

I hope that this translates into the world of face-to-face fundraising because forty-second pitches devoid of cause content cannot lead to forty-year old donors content with their cause.

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