The best tip of the whole IFC!

Published by Gerbren Deves on

Two weeks ago I attended my 7th IFC in a row and I had great fun. Every time I go through all my notes in the weekend after the IFC, to think about the things I’ve learned, and make sure not to forget about these things while drowning in work on Monday. When I think of last year’s IFC, I immediately think of Karen Osborne giving me the tip of the week: “When thanking a donor, ask if there is somebody else you should thank”. I thought it was a brilliant tip! Also this year I heard a great tip like that, which you’ll find hereunder.

Firstly I do have to say, although I really enjoyed the IFC again, that I was rather disappointed about the level this year. And I was not alone in this disappointment. I discussed this with some members of the IFC Advisory Panel, who put together the program. They told me that certain speakers were not invited this year in order to create more room for fresh views and insights. Although I can understand that viewpoint, I missed some speakers who will always be inspirational, no matter how many times or how long you hear them speak. I missed people like Karen Osborne. And Chris Carnie, another speaker in that league, was there for just one session of no more than 1 hour. Again, I do understand the IFC’s viewpoint, and I also understand that the IFC wants to meet the wishes of inexperienced attendees, but I was still disappointed.

In addition, I was there as a session leader, meaning I did not have full control of the sessions I attended. That is, as a session leader you are with the organization, helping to facilitate the speakers, collect evaluation forms and assist participants with questions they might have. There are several positive sides of being a session leader, such as a discount on your entrance fee, close contact with the speakers, and always part of a nice group of international fundraisers. But a negative aspect is that you have no guarantee that you can follow the masterclass and workshops that you want; you can only indicate your priorities, and your schedule is being made for you. But I guess there is something useful in every session.

This year I went to various sessions on corporate giving. Let me just summarize some interesting aspects I heard about the prospect value chain, from attitude towards corporate giving, preparation of meetings, until pitching your idea, including your non-verbal communication. And last but certainly not least, the best tip of the whole IFC!

Attitude towards corporate giving

Things I heard about this were mainly about being donor-centered. That major giving is not just asking, but matching your donor’s needs. And that you should think beyond cash to get cash, meaning establish the relationship first, and develop it to such a level  that this company will start donating money in a later stage. And that you, as relationship manager corporate gifts, could drive innovation within your organization, and thus be the engine of cultural change. Nothing new, but oh so true!

Preparation of meetings

This topic was mainly about being as professional as possible and knowing your (potential) donor well. They said you should know their:

  • Products: where is the fit between their products and your organization?
  • Brand: be able to say “Our organization can add value to your brand, because…”
  • Markets: are they operating, or do they have interest in countries where your organization works?
  • Employees and customers: try to link your individual donors with their employees and/or customers.
  • Know their plans on communication, products, etc.: this way you can present your proposal in line with these.

I would add four more important aspects you should know about your (potential) donor:

  • Gift capacity: what is the company able to give to your organization, and relate this to what your organization can do in return. Don’t just think about money, but also about services, products, expertise, communication, network, etc. To best define the gift capacity, you should have up-to-date information about how the company is doing at that particular moment, how the crisis is affecting them, their staff, etc.
  • Motivation: important to define the gift capacity is to know the social activities and ambitions of this potential donor. Why would this company want to team up with your organization?
  • Possible objections: not only find out what they like, but also what they dislike.
  • The right persons to speak with: who makes the decisions, who influences, etc.

If you do not have a researcher at your disposal, try to get several influential corporate people on board, as they can be very important in finding out relevant information. Otherwise, you can always find information from news banks, trade organizations, Chamber of Commerce, etc.

Pitching the idea

In one session it was taught that you should always be prepared to do an elevator pitch, so you should have a short and clear answer on the following questions:

  1. What is the opportunity (the offer)?
  2. Why is it important?
  3. What will success look like?
  4. What do we need from you?

Another session was about different (appealing) ways to communicate your message. I was struck by a very nice example of a video campaign by a creative agency. It featured a blind man on a street with a sign “I’m blind, please help”, which did not really convince people to give money to him. Then there is this girl passing, grabbing his sign and writing a new message. As a viewer you don’t see the new text yet, but you do see a lot of people donating money to this man all of a sudden. Somewhat later the same girl walks by again and asks if he has received more donations by now. The blind man confirms and asks the girl what she had done. “Oh, I just said the same as you, but with different words”. While the girl is walking away the viewer sees the sign, which now reads: “It’s a beautiful day, and I can’t see it”. I thought it was a very nice example which made me think about my own messages, and if I could improve them by rephrasing them completely. The video is absolutely worth watching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HX5aRzXUzJo

I also attended an interesting workshop by Bernard Ross and Michael Johnston about the balanced scorecard. If you don’t know this management tool, I would advise you to look at this and decide whether or not this would come in handy when presenting your organization to a (potential) donor: http://www.balancedscorecard.org/Home/tabid/36/Default.aspx

Non-verbal communication

The workshop I expected the least of turned out to be very interesting; a workshop by Alberto Castelvecchi on ‘your personal touch’. Although I didn’t agree with everything he said, he explained how your eyes, hands, belly, hips and feet are critical in the way you appear to be when you communicate. He explained things how scratching your nose is a sign of irritation, touching your ear is a sign of lying, and that you should have your hand palms open and make round gestures with your hands if you want to appear to be open.

It was my last workshop at the IFC and I couldn’t help myself looking back at the past week; what had I learned? What was the best thing I had heard, that I would be implementing first thing on Monday? But then, at the end of the session, he came with the best tip I’ve heard in that whole week. A tip I will think about at my next donor meeting, and also in all other meetings to come. He said: “Make sure people feel better after you have met them!”

Amen to that. Thank you Alberto and thank you IFC!


This year 101fundraising is the official blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress (IFC), the world’s leading conference on fundraising. This blog post is part of a special IFC Blog Series, where we gave IFC speakers a chance to share their wisdom before the conference. Attending crowdbloggers will now get a chance to share their views after the conference!

Gerbren Deves

Gerbren is Coordinator Relationship Management at Médecins Sans Frontières Holland (MSF, Artsen zonder Grenzen). He has been working for MSF since April 2006. Before that, he worked in 'the corporate world', in various (strategic) marketing functions.


Steven van Gestel · November 1, 2012 at 19:22

Is it an idea to use that tip even beyond your donor meetings? ;)

Margaux Smith · November 5, 2012 at 10:59

“Make sure people feel better after you have met them!” I love that, Gary! Thanks :)

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