The Fundraising Power of Curiosity

Published by Roger Craver on

When the International Fundraising Conference opens on Wednesday in the Netherlands it will not only benefit attendees, it will send a signal on the power and importance of “curiosity.”

Folks spend a lot of money, time and travel hassle to get to the IFC.  Unlike most local/national conferences they come not to meet envelope and printing sales people and be taken to dinner but to learn.

In short, they’re curious.

Curious 1Setting aside ‘complacency’ and ‘sloth’,  one of the greatest barriers to growth in our sector is lack of curiosity.  It is this trait that keeps most organisations content to live  in the foothills of the same-old-same-old as opposed to seeking the higher peaks of great fundraising.

I’ve written a lot about this on The Agitator as has Adrian Sargeant and Kevin Schulman. I really hope you’ll take the time to read all of them.

The reason IFC is, and has been for 30+ years , my favourite conference, is that it attracts the truly curious.  Unlike our American conferences where the motives are mixed between being wined and dined by agencies ( the agencies derisively refer to it as “feed bagging”)  and maybe learning a little something the IFC is quite different.

First of all IFC imposes high standards on those who present.  No seat of the pants, off-the-cuff bullshit.  Careful and thorough presentation is the main criterion to succeed with this group.

Most importantly, the IFC is the perfect laboratory for the “curious”.   In the organisers ‘own words:  This year’s programme is themed around creating inspiring connections between fundraisers, and between fundraisers and donors. It reflects the increasingly interconnected world we live in – culturally, politically and technologically.

The Resource Alliance, the somewhat mysterious gang that organises the IFC gets it.  Fundraisers count.  Donors count even more.

HOWEVER… my point is not just to celebrate the tribute to ‘curiosity’ represented by IFC.  Whether you go to the Netherlands or not, that wonderful gene called ‘curiosity” is present no matter where you are.   You just have to put it to work.

Learn 2Just think what ‘curiosity’ has led to in our trade of fundraising:

  • Direct mail
  • Telefundraising
  • DRTV
  • Radio
  • Online Fundraising
  • Face-to-Face
  • Video messaging
  • Peer-to-Peer.

You name it.

At a time when the majority of fundraisers are complacently stuck in the outmoded strategies of the past “curiosity” can help set them free and on the road to growth and greater success.

Year after year the old saying “that what makes you strong can kill you in the end” proves itself over and over with nonprofits.  Rising acquisition costs, lower retention rates are but the latest example.

Unfortunately, being curious and applying your curiosity for change ain’t all that easy.  Outdated strategies from outdated managers and outdated higher ups will work against you.  They just can’t believe the past won’t keep repeating over and over.

This Paleolithic point of view coupled with always limited resources (unless, of course they want , to spend thousands of £’s , Euros or $ on some rebranding nonsense to please the Chairperson’s wife) , does indeed limit the application and testing of curiosity.

Top off all this off with the management not “getting it” in conjunction  with rigid, hierarchical-based silos successful fundraisers must be prepared to fight two big battles:

  • The belief on the part of the paleolithic management that donors exist to serve the organization. 
  • That donor loyalty is a form of stupidity and consequently should be exploited.

Tragically under this view, the more donors give the more they deserve to be exploited.

Learn leadOf course all of this backward thinking ignores changes in demographics, the explosion of information complexity and the skepticism of today’s donor.  In short, the managers who still subscribe to this are fools.

What’s needed today is flexible, adaptable nonprofit structures focused on the donor.  Not on organization-centric issues involving various silos and petty internal disputes.

Today’s nonprofit must proactively live in the world of its donors.

Doing all this requires curiosity.  Curiosity leads to fact-finding. And, fact-finding leads to new ways of doing things.

As the American author Dorothy Parker put it:  “The cure for boredom is curiosity.  There is no cure for curiosity.”

Stay curious.


International Fundraising Congress (IFC)This post is part of the 2014 IFC Series. 101fundraising is proud to be the blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress! Check out HERE when Roger is presenting at the IFC.


Roger Craver

The Wall Street Journal described him as “an assassin of all things right-wing.” The American Association of Political Consultants placed him in their Hall of Fame, and the Direct Marketing Association gave him their Lifetime Achievement Award. Roger Craver is, in fact, a disruptor and challenger of the status quo. A pioneer in direct response fundraising in the 60’s, telemarketing in the ’70s, online information services in the ’80s, multi-channel fundraising and communication in the ’90s, and donor-designed strategies today, he brings an experienced and critical eye to the greatest problem faced by today’s nonprofits: donor retention. Roger, who today edits the daily Agitator, helped launch or build some of the household names in the nonprofit advocacy sector: Greenpeace, the National Organization for Women, World Wildlife Fund, Habitat for Humanity, and Amnesty International.


Steve Thomas · October 10, 2014 at 16:20

Well said Roger. Really sorry I wont be going this year. Regards.

Simone Joyaux · October 14, 2014 at 11:00

Hi Roger. Tom and I are waving at you from France. Ah curiosity. How boring life is without it. As you well know, in French there is the term “the folie de pourquoi.” Translated as the madness for asking why.

Ah the little children. “Why?” “But why?” Years ago, I read research that said that by pre-teens, our society has purged children of “why?”

Tristesse. Tom will drink a bottle of wine for you. Simone

The Fundraising Power of Curiosity | Print my recipes · October 11, 2014 at 18:00

[…] The Fundraising Power of Curiosity […]

Fundraising Friday | October 24, 2014 - Pamela Grow · October 24, 2014 at 14:59

[…] “Today’s nonprofit must proactively live in the world of its donors.”  Roger Craver with The Fundraising Power of Curiosity. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *