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12/02/2012 - Fundraising is a Learnt Experience
a Learnt Experience
I remember my very first fundraising activity.
I had just joined World Vision Australia in 1980 as a copywriter and my first assignment was to write a press ad for Child Sponsorship.
I had never written an ad before, let alone a press ad, let alone a direct response ad.
After spending hours of intensive creative energy and mental straining there was the ad. I was convinced that I had written a great ad.
Then I had to present it to the senior managers. They proceeded to show me why the ad was not a good direct response ad.
While I was disappointed, I learnt so much from this. What I learnt the most was how much I DIDN’T know. This experience also created a strong desire to learn my craft.
We all know the importance of training and learning but I believe the first step to knowledge and wisdom is to know that you don’t know.
The next step is to have the DESIRE to know.
Once you have the desire, seek out those who will inspire you and lead you to discover the emotional thrill there is in learning.
This is especially the case with fundraising. Fundraising is learnt not just from books but from experience.
You can gain that experience the hard way by simply doing things yourself and hoping they work or you can learn the more efficient way by listening to and working with an experienced fundraiser who will help you avoid the mistakes they probably have made themselves.
What is scary is when people who are experienced in other fields such as marketing or advertising come into fundraising and feel they know what it takes to achieve fundraising success. Often they do not appreciate the difference between the commercial world and the non-for-profit world.
The risk is they may fail to achieve the results they promise to deliver and cause the organization to have less income.
That is why I believe it is essential to attend a conference or workshop delivered by a fundraiser or enroll in FIA’s Certificate in Fundraising and to listen to those who have learnt through experience and are willing to share their experience with their fellow fundraisers.
This is not only important for those who are new to fundraising but for all fundraisers.
The moment that you think YOU KNOW IT ALL … is the moment YOU NEED TO RETIRE to do something else.
I love learning and I love hearing from those who are good at what they do.
But there is one caution I would add. Having listened to what a fundraiser has said it is important for you to put this into practice and to learn it for yourself. Maybe even improve on what you have learnt. And if you are successful then share that learning with others.
This way, we not only learn to be better at what we do, we help to make this world a better place.
Leo Orland FFIA CFRE