IFC: folding letters and licking envelopes!

Published by Reinier Spruit on

Tomorrow one of the most inspirational fundraising gatherings of the world starts right here in The Netherlands: The International Fundraising Congress (better known as: the IFC).

About 1,000 fundraisers from more than 60 countries spend a couple of days in the same building. Talking, learning, sharing, looking, absorbing, listening and consuming fundraising. It’s both very impressive and somewhat intimidating if we sum all the money that is being raised by all delegates. But it’s also encouraging, because every charity represented once started small, and every fundraiser walking around once started as a junior.

When I convinced my boss 8 years ago that I needed to go there, I started out as an IFC Session Leader. If you ever attended the IFC you know what they do and look like: always asking for evaluation forms and kindly answering all your logistical questions, in bright green shirts (nowadays in bright red). It got me in the door with a discount, so I was very happy.

I got back with a pile of presentations, a dozen best practices, at least 25 pitfalls to avoid and about 25 pages of tips and tricks. Guess what… I’ve read them once more, just before they were replaced by next year’s pile. Sure, do write down all that is interesting! But take one extra hour when you’re back to choose 5 action points that you will actually follow up and implement, otherwise not much will happen…

I still remember my biggest take away in my first year.

In my spooky-greenish-Session-Leader-shirt I was allowed to attend the master class from the great Karen Osborne. She asked all these smart fundraisers in the room the following question:

What is it that you should be doing for at least 50% of your time when you’re a fundraising director?

The classroom remained quiet. She asked again and some brave men and women tried:

Monitoring our income raised?”, “Supporting and guiding my team?”, “Getting my board members involved?”, but none of them were close.

Karen gave the answer: “First you should be thinking about the future. Where do you want to go with your organization? And can your fundraising program match that? How will you do that? Think about the future. The next step is to think BIG about your future.  Be ambitious for your mission.  Just thinking about the future is not enough.  Are we stretching our organization, our fundraising team, our volunteers, our boards – Think big!”

Often I think about this moment when I start to drown in work. We all know what it’s like. Your inbox is filling up and your desk clutters up with documents you need to feedback on. You have the feeling that you’re not spending your time wisely. You have the feeling you’re folding letters and licking envelopes…

The thing is that you HAVE to fold letters and lick envelopes first to realize that you CAN do better. Before you realize HOW to do it better. So, don’t worry, as long as you’re not doing it a couple of years already, there is nothing wrong with folding letters and licking envelopes.

But, next time when you lean over to get the next pile of letters to fold, sit back and think for a while how you can improve your work, how can you improve your fundraising program?

One of the best places to sit back and think about improving your program is at the IFC.

Hope to see you there!

PS. A small selection of the speakers: Chris Carnie, Adrian Sargeant, Michael Hoffman, Kay Sprinkel-Grace, Neelam Makhijani, Tony Elisher, Julie Verhaar, Bernard Ross, Dan Pallotta, Rob Patmore, Stephen George, Richard Radcliffe, Jan Krol, Geoff Peters, Ilja de Coster, Nick Allen, etc. etc.


This blog post is the first in a series of 6 blog posts covering the IFC 2011:
Thursday 20 October: Margaux Smith
Monday 24 October: Juan Hendrawan
Thursday 27 October: Sonya Swiridjuk
Monday 31 October: Ellen Janssens
Thursday 3 November: Julie Verhaar

Reinier Spruit

Reinier Spruit

Reinier is in love with fundraising since 2001. Ever since he's trying to improve his own fundraising skills and those of others. He's one of the original founders of 101fundraising. At the moment working with amazing clients through his one-man fundraising consultancy. Loves running and baseball.


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