Lessons from the Annu­al Lec­tures: Emi­ly Henry’s view

Written by
Emily Henry
January 08, 2015
The world-famous Faraday Theatre home of experiment and innovation is the perfect location for the Annual Lectures.

The Revolutionise Annual Lectures was full of inspiring, thought-provoking insights into what fundraising is currently, where it is going and how it can improve. If you were one of the unfortunate souls who missed this event, I have for you a list of my top 10 lessons – the ones you just have to know!

1. Everyone has to take part

This sounds obvious. If anyone is going to do anything on a large scale it takes a lot of heart, a lot of work, a lot of desire for change. But, when it comes to fundraising, people are often turned off to become involved. The input from fundraisers who were able to engage their co-workers in fundraising efforts was inspiring. Clearly, more involvement will naturally lead to more funds, but hearing people like Louise MaCathie share stories of incredible growth in her organisation was enough make the audience think about making some serious changes in their own organisations.

2. You can convince everyone to take part

As fundraisers, most of us were excited to get back into our offices and put the tips we had gathered to work. Then we remember, not everyone shares our mindset and not everyone in our office is ready to start fundraising. Luckily, the Annual Lectures showcased some sections on how to get people around the organisation involved in our efforts. This included some ideas introduced by Richard Taylor such as a fundraising week and competitions to get all staff involved in raising funds. Further, Louise McCathie discussed how she persuaded her colleagues to get involved by changing the entire outlook of her organisation. If you need inspiration to get more staff on board with your fundraising look no further than the Annual Lectures. The motivation is staggering!

3. We must re-connect with our ‘why’

Life is full of stress to meet deadlines and goals, to complete your to-do list for work and personal life and to keep up constant change all around us. With all the pressure it becomes difficult to keep in mind why we do what we do. Our ‘why’ blurs, things get in the way of our view and, at times, we can completely lose sight of our purpose. The Revolutionise Annual Lectures reminded us all to re-evaluate constantly, put our purpose back into focus and get back on track. If we do not, we will end up losing sight of the very heart of our efforts.

4. We have to stop limiting ourselves

We often limit ourselves. Especially as young fundraisers, or as people who are just becoming involved in fundraising, we limit what we ask for and how we ask for it. There is something about being in a room with hundreds of experienced fundraisers that reminds one that making progress does not happen without taking risks. Jacob Robin spoke about asking for what you really want and stepping outside of the box. Limiting ourselves is what limits our work. Optimism, knowing no limits, dreaming big: these inspire growth.

5. We do not have to become a corporation but we have to get corporations involved…

There is often the view that nonprofits need to start thinking more like commercial organisations. At the Annual Lectures, Pat Dade reminded us that whilst we don’t have to do this, we do need to get corporations thinking about us. Jonathan Andrews also brought this to the audience’s attention by using Paul Polman’s famous quote: ‘We do not have to win at the expense of others to be successful. Winning alone is not enough it's about winning with purpose.’ We are not corporations but we do need them.

6. We must make our donors feel connected to our cause…and to us

Nonprofit organisations exist, grow and thrive because of donors. We must not forget this and we have to remind ourselves continually, as fundraisers, to be the ones that push the importance of the donor-recipient relationship. Almost every speaker showed how easy it is to make a connection to our donors by telling stories. Telling the story of what you do, how you do it and, most importantly, the person it benefits gives the donor a chance to connect on a very human level to what your organisation does. Storytelling is truly the future of fundraising.

7. Winning is not always what we think…

It is always nice to see winning in a new light. Winning is about changing the donor experience; improving our customer service so that people feel better about giving. According to Ken Burnett, fundraisers need to improve how they communicate with potential and current donors in order to win. Alan Clayton emphasised the importance of letting the donor know that they had won. Winning is partnership.

8. We must give back to those who give to us

As a continuation of connecting with donors, we learned that it is essential to make our donors feel special. Speakers throughout the day reminded us that there is a need to give. So, why do NGOs and nonprofits not give back to their donors? It was incredibly inspiring to hear Ken Burnett, Alan Clayton and Tony Elischer’s little lecture on how to make donors know how important they are to us. We need to give even as we receive, especially when we receive.

9. New talent is necessary and needs to be inspired

Tony Elischer emphasised that new talent has to be found if nonprofits are to grow. And new talent needs to be inspired and motivated. His point: passion and dedication are necessary in order for fundraising to flourish.

10. But we feel pessimistic…

It is easy to become pessimistic when doing work that is difficult. Fundraising is downright difficult. Jacob Rolin inspired me by reminding the audience that there is no reason the nonprofit or ‘profit-with-a-purpose’ sector should not be growing along with other sectors. Tony Elischer agrees that it is important to be aware of the changes happening in the world, but ultimately fundraisers provide an opportunity for people to make a better world.

I was very fortunate to win entrance to the Revolutionise Annual Lectures. I went home with the knowledge that fundraising is a process that benefits everyone, fundraisers, non-fundraising colleagues, beneficiaries, donors. It was at these lectures that we could all recommit do being fearless fundraisers. And I have a feeling that all of us in attendance are passionately sharing our stories from the Annual Lectures with all who will listen. 

About the author: Emily Henry

Emily Henry is an American living in The Netherlands. She is a recent graduate of Webster University, Leiden with a Master’s degree in International Non-Governmental Organisations. She is passionate about empowering marginalised populations through social entrepreneurship and the development of sustainable solutions to social problems.

Currently, she is an intern at Child and Youth Finance International, an INGO that leads the world’s largest movement dedicated to enhancing the financial capabilities of children and youth with the goal of reducing extreme poverty in one generation.

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