WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT FUNDRAISING

A few months ago, I transitioned from almost two decades of corporate roles to being the Chief Operating Officer for Globalfaces Direct (GFD). GFD is an amazing business that provides fundraising and related services to international, national and regional charities and not-for-profit organizations from 50+ locations across the United States and Canada. 

As the new kid on the block in the fundraising world, this experience has opened my eyes to a whole different perspective on this often overlooked but incredibly important sector. Below are 5 key realizations I have had over the months:

 

1. Fundraising Is An Incredible Experience

Having spent time in the trenches with our fundraisers walking door-to-door to canvass for a charity, I have only amazement for this experience. On the face of it, this is really hard as you pound the pavement in rain or in cold and hear “No” more than 95 out of 100 times from the homeowners but this experience builds immense grit and persistence. You also get to witness first-hand people’s generosity on a daily basis and build a unique perspective of society from thousands of interactions. Many view fundraising as akin to ‘quick sales’, but in my view the most successful people become excellent at listening and influencing people while being 100% genuine – a critical skill that is useful lifelong. I recommend you try door-to-door fundraising at some point in your journey of development, you will not be disappointed by the experience!

 

2. Monthly Giving – The Small Things Add Up

I always thought that charitable giving is mainly the domain of wealthy individuals through large donations. But I have learned that small amounts of monthly giving creates a huge impact. Most of the donors we reach out to give somewhere between $10 to $30 on a monthly basis. To put this in perspective, it is less than the money we would typically spend on ordering a pizza and also comes with tax breaks. But when aggregated across thousands of donors on a sustainable basis, these small acts of giving become a potent force in making a difference for charities. There are charities where almost 80% of mass giving comes from individual donors who give on an ongoing basis. Recent statistics from US and Canada suggest that 69% of all charitable giving comes from individual donors adding up to an impressive amount well over $300 billion.

 

3. Good, Good & Great

The impact of money raised for a charity gets amplified several times just like the money multiplier effect in the commercial world. As the first level fundraising helps acquire monthly donors for charities. But at the next level this enables the charities to address the most difficult problems in society and create opportunities and skills for the  underprivileged that they represent. This creates enormous social capital. At a different level, the entire industry provides a means of livelihood to hundreds and thousands of people involved in fundraising and the execution of programs. Speaking to people across the spectrum, there are awe-inspiring stories of personal achievements and professional growth. 

 

4. Huge Opportunity For Application Of Technology

At its very core, fundraising is all about in-person interaction and appealing to the greater good inside members of a community who are desiring to give and support the cause that is represented. Advances in online technology, social media & communication have made a quantum shift in increasing awareness about issues and outreach to potential donors. There is now an even more significant opportunity to use the next level of technological breakthroughs in data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning and apply it to fundraising. While nothing can easily replace the human connection from door-to-door canvassing that is central to fundraising, there are millions of data points available about the behaviour of donors towards charitable giving. This treasure of information can be coupled with the brute force of computer modelling to better match a community’s needs to people who will likely give which can greatly improve the overall return on human effort of the fundraising task.

 

5. Fundraising Has To Be Run Like An Efficient Business

There are many who think about fundraising and volunteering in interchangeable terms. However, fundraising is no different than any other business activity that has to be run in a profitable and efficient manner. Fundraising requires lots of technology solutions, outreach efforts and promotional materials which are not any cheaper for a charity than they are for a commercial business. There are also a lot of wonderful people involved who also have families to support, kids to send to college and personal aspirations to meet. Hence it is very important to have the right incentive structures in place and to drive performance to be able to optimize Return on Fundraising Investment. Also, fundraising could simply become an inefficient cost center that dilutes rather than strengthens the charity’s mission. 

 

In summary, it has been a very enjoyable and satisfying journey in the world of fundraising. Contrary to expectations, this is a very structured industry which offers enriching experiences, has an amplified impact on society and is full of opportunities. I feel privileged and grateful for the chance to contribute to this sector, and more importantly make a difference for our charity partners and our fundraisers. 

 

Sharad Goenka is the Chief Operating Officer at Globalfaces Direct. He is a well-rounded executive with 20 years of leadership experience across the spectrum in operations, strategy, investment & commercial roles. He has worked globally for organizations such as Schlumberger, 3i Plc, Cairn Oil & Gas, Deloitte and OYO Hotels. Sharad has an engineering degree from IIT Bombay and an MBA from Harvard Business School. The first graduate in his family, he is grateful for the opportunities life has given him and looks for ways to contribute back to society.

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