Ruthellen Rubin
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Consulting for Nonprofits and Philanthropies


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We offer the expertise, resources and personalized attention to help your nonprofit organization realize its full potential. Our team also works with philanthropies to help build strong partnerships.

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The Nonprofit Blog

It Takes a Classroom to Change the World

In the whirlwind of cyber-learning featuring podcasts, netcasts, webinars and MOOCs it is a rare treat for an inquisitive fundraising professional to participate in an intensive, in-person classroom course.  It often requires travel, expense and the commitment of a full day out of the office.  But what a difference a day can make when shared with a room full of prospective and experienced fundraisers.

Yesterday I had the privilege of facilitating a full-day comprehensive course on The Annual Appeal at the Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising at NYU with 25 fundraisers (present and hopeful) from around the world.  They came from Bostswana, Turkey, Luxembourg, Ireland, Virginia, Wisconsin and across the mid-Atlantic states.  They represented universities, hospitals, social services, start up grassroots organizations, family foundations and more.  In the room we had board members, philanthropists, major gifts officers, development staff, executive directors and ship-jumpers from the arts, healthcare and public relations.

Eight hours of classroom time gave us the space to explore annual giving throughout the multi-channel options with which we are presented today.  We moved from the age-old direct mail appeals right through the infographics of tomorrow.  We considered our range of communications strategies from the art of the handwritten note to talking to a donor face-to-face to voicemail communications to the medium of email to communicating via SMS.  No one left during the breaks; no one played with his/her cell phone and no one fell asleep. 

Twenty five professionals, from around the world, listened to one another, offered their best thinking and were amazed at the similar situations we shared in the art of donor cultivation and in the quest for finding perfect partnerships among donors and nonprofit organizations.  Although I have led and participated in many online learning opportunities, none can compare to the high level of learning that can take place in a classroom.

In discussing the importance of asking a donor for a specific gift amount, an interesting quandary emerged.  I mentioned that our family gives an annual $1,000 gift to one of our alma maters.  We are proud to support that university but our gift, in and of itself,  in no way seems to make a measurable impact.  At the same time, there is a local grassroots organization that we greatly admire and give an annual gift of $50 which is much appreciated and has an immediate impact on their ability to serve young girls in an impoverished community.  I mentioned that it didn't make sense (that we wouldn't reverse those two gifts), but those types of giving habits are quite common.  One student stopped me right there! 

Rather than just take notes about this frequent occurence, she challenged me (and the rest of the class) to consider how that can be changed.  She asked us how donors can be retrained to not just make gifts at a certain level out of habit. And, to consider how a grassroots charity can become bold enough to routinely ask for $1,000 gifts, thereby moving the needle very quickly to help improve the life of a child living in poverty.  At that moment I wished for another 8 hours in the classroom with this group of professionals because I believe we could have changed the world.

 

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