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The Fundraising Talent Podcast

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Can fundraising embrace the science of muddling through? As I shared with Andy today, I recall one of his books being among the first that I read early in my career. Now, more than two decades later, it was a pleasure to find so much common ground in how we think about fundraising. Perhaps what I most appreciated about our conversation was that Andy wants fundraisers to enjoy space where the metrics aren’t the focus and where collecting a check isn’t the only goal. As I have said many times myself, we have to afford the relationship the opportunity to do at least some of the job for us. 
Andy wants fundraisers and their employers to be more comfortable with ambiguity because our world seems to get more complex and unpredictable by the day; Andy insists that developing a tolerance for ambiguity is a good trait to have. As studies demonstrated decades ago, Andy wants boards and nonprofit leaders to appreciate the fact that muddling through can sometimes be as good an approach as a well-structured and highly detailed strategy.
As always, we are especially grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent. 
If you’d like to learn more about Responsive Fundraising’s sense-making retreats, email me for more information. 
If you’d like to learn more about the messy middle, download our free white paper entitled, Making sense of the messy middle.
For more information about the upcoming Nonprofit Consulting Conference, visit their website here.
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Can fundraising embrace the science of muddling through? As I shared with Andy today, I recall one of his books being among the first that I read early in my career. Now, more than two decades later, it was a pleasure to find so much common ground in how we think about fundraising. Perhaps what I most appreciated about our conversation was that Andy wants fundraisers to enjoy space where the metrics aren’t the focus and where collecting a check isn’t the only goal. As I have said many times myself, we have to afford the relationship the opportunity to do at least some of the job for us. 
Andy wants fundraisers and their employers to be more comfortable with ambiguity because our world seems to get more complex and unpredictable by the day; Andy insists that developing a tolerance for ambiguity is a good trait to have. As studies demonstrated decades ago, Andy wants boards and nonprofit leaders to appreciate the fact that muddling through can sometimes be as good an approach as a well-structured and highly detailed strategy.
As always, we are especially grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent. 
If you’d like to learn more about Responsive Fundraising’s sense-making retreats, email me for more information. 
If you’d like to learn more about the messy middle, download our free white paper entitled, Making sense of the messy middle.
For more information about the upcoming Nonprofit Consulting Conference, visit their website here.
Why don’t fundraising wizards talk about the messy middle? Early in my career, I figured out pretty quickly that the fundraising wizards want nothing to do with the messy middle. Instead, half of them decide to become overly-invested in new donor acquisition while the other half try to one-up each other in the billionaire campaign club. In this kind of environment, it’s no wonder everything feels so transactional, donor attrition is what it is, and our fundraisers are fed up. Blame the wizards.
Today, I sat down with Laurel and Noah, two members of Responsive’s team who, like myself, have made a lot of sense of why the fundraising community, consultancies in particular, won’t talk about the messy middle. What Laurel and Noah have discovered is that the messy middle is where fundraisers have the opportunity to shine, where their employers make sense of how it all actually works, and where the wizards start to feel like they’re getting in the way.
As Laurel and Noah discuss in todays podcast conversation, the messy middle isn’t about the timing of, size of, or who gets credit for a donor’s contribution. The messy middle is where the organization makes an intentional decision to prioritize their relationships ahead of the gift - where the donor becomes a citizen rather than a mere consumer. The messy middle is where, as Laurel describes, the job becomes more than that of being a master technician who runs a “fundraising machine.” As Noah describes it, the messy middle is where those on both sides of the exchange can be known, understood, and listened to as human beings.
As always, we are especially grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent Podcast. If you’d like to learn more about Responsive Fundraising’s sense-making retreats, email me for more information. If you’d like to learn more about the messy middle, reach out to either Laurel or Noah for a conversation, and/or download our free white paper entitled, Making sense of the messy middle.
Are fundraisers being more selective about whom they work for? What I have found enlightening about my conversations with Michelle is her studies in anthropology and her active involvement in several well-organized discussions aimed at addressing some of our sector’s enduring challenges. What I also find noteworthy is that, while some might like to accuse such discussion groups of over-thinking, the colleagues who are seated at the table with Michelle certainly don’t see it this way. Today’s conversations with Michelle confirms that our sector will never reach higher aspirations without asking some tough questions. 
When I asked what Michelle believed was the common thread among the conversations she is a part of, she described a heightened awareness that what got us here isn’t going to be adaquate for the road ahead. While fundraisers may have tolerated being part of an intervening subculture in the past, they are now insisting on more active and influential roles. Michelle explains that her peers are well aware of the fact that the status quo is flawed and that the boards and bosses who want to hire them are highly resistant to change. All this means that fundraisers need to be savvier about their job descriptions and a bit more selective about whom they sign on with.
As always, we are especially grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent Podcast. If you’d like to learn more about Responsive Fundraising’s sense-making retreats, email me for more information. If you’d like to learn more about the conversations that Michelle and her colleagues are a part of, visit these websites for more information. 
Community-Centric Fundraising 
The Donor Participation Project
Association of Fundraising Professionals - Austin Chapter
Can fundraising professionals let go of their favorite toys? As a privileged white guy, these are the types of conversations that keep me on my toes. Today we’re happy to have Noah, a member of our consulting team, co-hosting; which means I have one obligation which fellas like me don’t do very easily - today, my job is to just shut up and listen. Today’s conversation is just a taste of what Noah and Martha will be talking about at #BAMEOnline later this month. Martha and Noah want us to ask ourselves whether our existing tools, those we’re comfortable and familiar with, will allow us to dismantle the injustices many of us are trying to address. In other words, can fundraising professionals let go of their favorite toys?
Martha is the founder of #BAMEOnline - the first conference of it’s kind. Martha describes #BAMEOnline as advancing liberation for all people rather than just those of power and privilege. It is a space where Black and POC who have done incredible fundraising can share the keys to their success. Martha also explains that, in addition to creating and strengthening the community, conference organizers don’t shy away from difficult questions that have easily been overlooked and ignored in our sector. Martha insists that if we don’t do the deep work of asking how and for what purposes our existing tools were designed, we’re doomed to commit the same sins we accuse others of.
The #BAMEOnline conference is July 28th in partnership with our friends at FundraisingEverywhere. This online event isn’t just for POC; it’s for anyone who wants to better understand how to navigate racism, fundraising and philanthropy. Tickets are pay what you can, which means that it is open to all, regardless of your training budget. All profits will be split between organizations led by POC in the UK.
As always, we are especially grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent Podcast. If you’d like to learn more about Responsive Fundraising’s sense-making retreats, email me for more information. If you’d like to learn more about the  conference, visit the #BAMEOnline website here.
Are fundraisers spending too much time chasing after new donors? I was delighted to have Mazarine as a returning guest on today’s episode of The Fundraising Talent Podcast. Mazarine is the founder of Wild Woman Fundraising and the Nonprofit Consulting Conference. Mazarine also hosts the Asking for More podcast and she is the author of The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising and Get the Job! Your Fundraising Career Empowerment Guide. In today’s conversation we wrestle with whether, in light of the higher aspirations within the nonprofit sector, the social sector playbook is overdue for some twenty-first century revisions or perhaps even needs to be completely re-written.
Practically speaking, such aspirations seem to have overlooked how we expect fundraisers to spend their time. Mazarine and I talked about how many fundraisers are stuck in job descriptions that don’t afford them the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with donors and, instead, encourage them to spend the majority of their time tinkering around with new donor acquisition strategies. I find it to be highly disingenuous how often voices in our space advocate for bold ideas while ignoring the fact that most fundraisers are glued to their desk behind a computer screens. Conversations like this one leave me all the more convinced that, regardless of what is being said on the platform, most leaders in our space are quite content with cheap, arms-length fundraising practices that keeping our expectations of donors low while advancing nothing other than the status quo.
As always, we are especially grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent Podcast. If you’d like to learn more about Responsive Fundraising’s sense-making retreats, email me for more information. If you’d like to learn more about the upcoming nonprofit consulting conference, visit Mazarine’s website here.
Are fundraising professionals patiently earning the right to ask? I don’t often get the pleasure of having a conversation with an author who has influenced my thinking, which makes today’s  conversation, in which I have the pleasure of hosting two of them, especially exciting. Both authors are returning guests so they know the routine. Rebecca introduces herself as having been fortunate to live in the company of generous people; she is the author of Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as a Ministry. Tyrone introduces himself as the son, grandson, nephew, and cousin of Black Baptist preachers and First Ladies; and he credits these individuals for framing his perspective of philanthropy and inspiring his career. Tyrone is author of Madam C. J. Walker's Gospel of Giving: Black Women's Philanthropy During Jim Crow.
Tyrone explained that Growing Givers’ Hearts as gave him permission, early in his career, to think differently about the work we do. He describes the book as an encouraging counter-narrative to what Robert Payton begrudgingly referred to as the “business of fundraising.” I appreciated how our conversation centered on those donors who are easily overlooked in much of contemporary fundraising practice. In many ways our conversation raises the question of whether Madam CJ Walker, were she were alive today, would be cooperative with or intolerant of contemporary practices. As Tyrone suggests, Walker might have expected us to ask ourselves whether we had earned the right to ask. If the answer is no, as Rebecca suggests, would we have the patience to lean into the relationship until we have earned that right?
As always, we are especially grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent Podcast. If you’d like to learn more about Responsive Fundraising’s sense-making retreats, email me for more information. If you’d like to purchase a copy of Rebecca’s or Tyrone’s books, visit Responsive’s library here.
How many nonprofit organizations are stuck in the wrong story? Today I had the pleasure of a lengthy conversation with Gloria Novovic about “Rethinking Philanthropy,” a series of articles published by The Philanthropist Journal that seeks to chart a “just transition” towards a vision of Canadian Philanthropy that is anti-racist, justice-oriented, and based in solidarity. Gloria began by observing that, while there is a lot of rethinking about philanthropy going on, much of it is oriented towards a critique of what we have done wrong in the past rather than what we can do right going forward. Today’s conversation begs the question of whether the nonprofit sector has itself stuck in the wrong story and posits that, rather than trying to mimic what the private sector or our government accomplishes, we need to see our distinctiveness as a good thing. 
Among the many insights that Gloria offered, she described our sector as winning by losing: in the process of winning the support of large donors, corporations, and other power brokers, we lose the connection with our own communities, making it increasingly difficult to accomplish what we originally set out to do. Another example would be the sector’s over-reliance on the marketable charity model that appeals to a donor’s individualism and their desire to be the hero in their own stories but doesn’t appeal to a sense of justice and raise their awareness of the need for systemic change.
As always, we are especially grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent Podcast. If you’d like to learn more about Responsive Fundraising’s sense-making retreats, email me for more information. For more information about the series we discussed, click here.
What are the most insidious myths about planned gift fundraising? What I initially appreciated about my conversation with Tony was that, after he found himself dissatisfied with his work as an attorney, he re-engineered himself as a fundraiser and has since found planned giving to be very meaningful and rewarding work. Tony describes himself as an evangelist of planned giving and is the founder and the creator of the Planned Giving Accelerator which helps nonprofit leaders design and implement a planned giving program for their organizations.  As we have had very few podcast conversations about planned giving, I was especially grateful that Tony came prepared to address several of the myths that often get in the way of launching a successful planned giving effort. 
After Tony addressed what is perhaps the most insidious of planned giving myths - the idea it is a conversation about death - we explored a few others that linger close behind on the list. As I shared with Tony, I recall early in my career making the assumption that planned giving was highly technical work that only highly trained individuals were qualified to do. I also recall numerous times throughout my career hearing that discussions about planned gifts would undermine an organization’s opportunity for more immediate support. 
As always, we are especially grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent Podcast. If you’d like to learn more about Responsive Fundraising’s sense-making retreats, email me for more information.
Can digital champions strengthen your online fundraising efforts? My conversation today with Melanie reminded me of the work of that Damon Centola has done on understanding how digital networks affect social change. Very similar to Centola’s observations, Melanie wants to us to make sense of who our digital champions are and what value they can bring to the organization. These individuals create the social reinforcement that is often essential in compelling others to act. As I suggested to Melanie, the less predictable aspects of this approach will be unsettling for those who prefer to see a straight line between themselevss and the donation. However, as we all know, such “assembly line” fundraising has been waning for some time; and perhaps the nay-sayers just need some encouragement from the people like Melanie to convince them to give this nonlinear approach a try. 
What I most appreciated about our conversation was hearing how this concept applies to the baby boomers and those we may assume are not especially responsive to playing meaningful roles in our online strategies. I think we can very easily make sense of the idea that boomers are just as inclined as the rest of us to share what’s important to them and want to know that they are influencing the decisions of others in positive ways. I also appreciated the idea that digital champions could resolve some of the weaknesses in our new acquisition efforts. Rather than acquiring a large number of “warm glow givers” who can’t be counted on to give again, the digital champion affords an efficient (albeit less predictable) and gradual yet steady way of creating a donor community that can be counted on for many years to come.
As always, we are especially grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent Podcast. If you’d like to learn more about hosting the Responsive Fundraising roadshow in your local community, email me for more information.
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