What Donors Want - perhaps the most crucial podcast you'll hear this year. Episode one.

Episode one of a superb brand new podcast from I.G. Advisors.

Written by
Rachel Stephenson Sheff
October 23, 2017

This article was originally written by Rachel Stephenson Sheff and appeared on UK Fundraising on 9 July 2017. You can read that here.

What Donors Want offers a behind-the-scenes view into major gifts fundraising from the donor’s perspective.

Fundraisers and donors rarely actually talk to one another. The inherent power dynamic between the two means grantees are often nervous to ask questions, push back, or talk about mistakes. While it’s commonly understood that people give to people, grantmaking is often approached as a transaction, rather than a partnership.

At I.G. Advisors, we work on both sides of this philanthropy-fundraising equation – advising donors on how to maximise impact with their resources, and advising charities, social enterprises and NGOs on how to develop dynamic fundraising strategies that support their ambitions. We count some of the UK and US’ most influential bodies as our clients, contacts and partners. We know them as professionals – and as people – and want to use this unique access to help fundraisers all over the world better understand and approach major gifts fundraising.

In this spirit, we are thrilled to announce the launch of our new podcast series, What Donors Want. Each episode we’ll interview a different kind of major donor and get right down to it: what they want more of, what they want less of, and what truly goes into a fantastic partnership. All of this and more – straight from the donor’s mouth.

I can’t think of a better way to kick this off than with our first guest, Alfonsina Peñaloza, a Programme Officer for Global Development and Population at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in California. When not daydreaming of Aperol spritzes in Tuscany (you’ll have to listen to get the full context on that one), Alfonsina manages a portfolio of 47 grants, and gives us incredible insight into the do’s and don’ts from the perspective of a programme officer at one of the world’s most prolific grantmaking foundations.

In our inaugural episode, Alfonsina talks about the alchemy of a successful grant proposal, which includes strategic alignment, supported by organisational health and storytelling. We also chat with her about the most common fundraising mistakes she sees, such as not asking enough questions, dancing around mistakes, and trying to make the shoe fit (when it’s clearly never going to fit).

The conversation is truly a deep dive with so many gems. For instance, Alfonsina speaks to the unique bird’s eye view of a programme officer, which allows them to connect potential grantees with other officers or donors who align more closely with their work. She speaks to the fact that, while it may sound counterintuitive, unrestricted support can actually be restricting. She gives tangible advice on how to approach large institutions like Hewlett if you have no previous relationship with them, including what to write in that cold email.

And the one key takeaway Alfonsina wants you to remember? “The healthy way to have a relationship with a programme officer is to see them as much as possible as a partner rather than a donor.” Because at the end of the day, it’s all about respect, honesty and passion. We’re all here to do the work.

About the author: Rachel Stephenson Sheff

Rachel Stephenson Sheff

Rachel Stephenson Sheff works at I.G. Advisors, a London-based strategy and management consultancy in the social impact space. She is the producer of What Donors Want (aka I.G.’s Roz from Frasier).

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