The real art of Karate Fundraising!

Published by Patrice Simonnet on

Karate Fundraising? A new discipline is born? Come on! You didn’t hear about it yet?

Ok, don’t worry, this is not (really) a new channel or a way to boosting the income of your fundraising programme. It’s more like a way of seeing things and to ease your fundraiser everyday’s life.

Let me first explain how I came across the concept of “Karate Fundraising”. I was speaking on the phone with my friend Paolo Ferrara, one of the Italian digital gurus. Just trying to set a day to meet, in order to prepare a session for the Italian Fundraising Congress earlier this year. The session was about arguing which techniques, digital or traditional, were more successful in fundraising. At a certain point, Paolo answered to me: “Tuesday evening? Hum, it won’t be possible to meet. I’ll be at my karate class”. At this precise moment, the art of Karate Fundraising was revealed to me. This brings me to the first level of Karate fundraising, the yellow belt.

Yellow belt: always bring a bit of yourself in what you do at work.

It is key to include in your communications something real that you, a colleague, a donor or a testimonial experienced. It is hard to transmit a feeling, but if you manage to do so, you will get a very strong message. So go to the field and bring back case stories that moved you. They will for sure move your audience.

Then with Paolo, during our first meeting, we made a list of offline and online techniques, trying to find the most efficient ones. We came across the best projects each of us heard during the year. That was really fun and we were imagining how to implement something similar in our organizations. You know what I mean since you read all the blogs about fundraising, right? (Otherwise how would you end up reading this post with the strangest title ever…). This confirmed something obvious: we were learning a lot from sharing experiences. That was the whole point of running this session together. This statement brings me to the orange belt level.

Orange belt: share best practices with your peers, you will both get stronger.

This is the essence of Karate fundraising. Looking on Wikipedia, you can find the following: “Karate kumite means sparring (…). It is the part in which you train against an adversary (…) and it can be used to develop a particular technique or a skill”. So it is just about training and listening to other results. Nothing new about it? I know, but you are not a black belt yet! Keep on reading…

At this point, Paolo and I, we discussed the most successful campaigns from peer organizations. We weren’t at all having a fight or trying to find out which one was better. This was it. We ended up changing the mandate that was given to us. We came up with a more interesting one. Why? Because it made sense. We dared challenging the concept of the session we had to run.

Green belt: challenge the rules.

In our work, it could mean challenging some targets. Or simply go for running new tests. Will you be the next one to find the “new” challenge? Imagine, people who tested face-to-face for the first time Direct Response TV in your country. Were they so sure it would work? I guess they had to challenge their colleagues and to take risks. At worst, it didn’t work for them, but someone tested it again after them, and…made it right.

Then, having realized no duel was worth in our non-profit world, it became clear that the concept of Karate Fundraising would bring us toward a real elevation of our practice. There is a lot of other posts on this crowdblog speaking about integration, and this one could really be added to the list. We decided that the presentation will have to conclude on a clear statement that was about integration….I can’t tell you right now what it is, but you got my point. And congratulations you already made it to the blue belt level.

Blue belt: know where you want to get.

Setting targets and do not be afraid to make mistakes. Allow some risk taking when planning. What about deciding to spend 5% of your budget to your crazy project that “will never work”. Remember you were a yellow belt at one point and that “bit of yourself” (the crazy project!) could make the difference in the near future for the income of your organization.

Now, we are reaching the higher levels of the Karate Fundraising…

Brown belt: Take time to develop each of your fundraising techniques.

It doesn’t matter if they are online, offline or from corporate giving. If not at the same time, prioritize but keep going. Failing in developing a new product or in recruiting the right person should for example always be seen as the beginning of the right path. It’s your responsibility to assess the situation and to find what the next steps toward success are. Sometimes it is just about coming back to the basics. And Karate can bring you good tips. The first move in Karate is about salutation to the other fighter, right? Just think of this, applied to your recruitment or retention messages. It is important to begin showing a donor that he is important to you and that he is unique. It is key to do so before getting to the call-to-action, right? Ok, you got the essence of Karate Fundraising.

Black belt: Use a balanced portfolio of techniques.

To get to your objective, the easiest way is not always the most successful one. Be sure to use different channels, to develop new products, to fill the gaps in your fundraising program. It is all about using the right balance by integrating digital and traditional techniques. You will find many examples of online lead-generation activities that will need the use of an offline activity like telemarketing. What about using the contacts of your corporate partners, their clients, their staff, in order to reach at one time a lot of new individual donors. My point is that, fundraising is a complete art that need to adopt a 360 degrees approach. So, let’s stop the fighting between online and offline fundraisers and let’s really implement integration. But this won’t happen if you don’t start? Have you been practicing recently?

Hope this post will challenge you and that you are ready to leave a comment below. What is your example of Karate Fundraising?

Patrice Simonnet

Patrice is a French fundraiser lost and happy in Italy since 11 years... There, everyday, he discovers what cross-cultural means! After experiences as DM officer for Unicef and Head of Fundraising for ActionAid Italy, he is currently Head of Fundraising of a foundation taking care of Italian cultural and environmental heritage (FAI-Fondo Ambiente Italiano). There he manages a team of 30 dedicated and passionate staff. In a past life, he lived in Africa and South America, graduated both in "international business studies" and "development studies".


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