The 2011 International Fundraising Congress started with the stories of five women from around the world and their journeys with philanthropy. Even though these women came from different places, there were similarities between their stories and their journeys. Karen Osborne, a US-based fundraising consultant, provided an engaging narrative tying these stories together.
The stories started with Anu Aga from India. She works with several charities, including Teach for Asia. She saw and need, and saw giving as a way to help. In regards to her philanthropy, she stated simply that “giving is a very natural thing… and it’s very joyous… (it is) very fulfilling – not a duty or a chore.
Next was Dame Stephanie Shirley from the UK. She also says about philanthropy, “it is a pleasure… I feel like I don’t have a choice.” She expressed a desire shared by other donors: that she wants to be viewed as a stakeholder and as part of the family. But most of all, she said that she just wants to be thanked.
Peggy Dulany, founder of Synergos, shared about, among other things, her upbringing. Starting from a young age, her parents encouraged her to give away a percentage of her allowance. This act carried into adulthood and now she is continuing to invest in organizations that are having an impact.
Moving south to Brazil, we were introduced to Viviane Senna, who founded Instituto Ayrton Senna. Her son, who was killed in a race car accident, had a strong desire to help those with less. Her philanthropy increased significantly in memory of her son. She talked about the importance of both passion and being strategy when addressing community needs. For her, it was about being able to ‘”unlock the potential (children) were born with.”
Last, but not least, Yaa Asohemaa Nimako from Ghana shared about her giving. She also talked about the importance of identifying the passion of our donors, as well as about sharing stories about how lives are being impacted. She also expects that money contributed will be used wisely. When asked about which gifts brought the most joy, she pointed to those experiences where she gave time, energy, and teaching skills (as well as money). When engagement increases, money will typically increase as well.
Mrs. Osborne summarized the responses by identifying those themes that were common to the women’s stories: vision, shared values, having an impact, deep engagement, and the joy of giving.
How are these five themes playing out in your organization? What can you do to improve those (and communicate that to your donors?)