Four Things from #IFC2015 That Will Help You be a Better Fundraiser

Published by Rory Green on

The Resource Alliance’s International Fundraising Congress is hands down the best investment a fundraiser can make in their career and themselves. Every year, some of the best minds in fundraising gather in Noordwijk to elevate the sector. I had the privilege of attending this year and I came away with my mind filled with ideas, my heart filled with emotion, my soul filled with inspiration and my passion for fundraising re-ignited.

Here were my top takeaways from #IFC2015

Donors are PEOPLE not numbers

ken burnettWe need to value our donors. We need to resect that they are human beings with passions and values. We need to change our communications to put those people at the core of everything we do. Not just because this sounds like a lovely thing to do, but because as research has shown – it increases the lifetime value of donors.  This was a theme that emerged in several sessions, and it’s easy to understand why with the climate in the UK.

It’s easy to lose sight of the human beings behind the data with fast approaching deadlines and high targets to reach. But the charities that have real sustainable success are the ones that remember to see past the money and think strategically about the people who are their donors.

So, how do we do this?

  • Charlie Hulme urged us to get to know our donors, and segment them based on why they give – and what value the charity offers them.
  • charlie hulmeBeate Sorum shared ways to put the donor experience at the heart of your online giving page. Her slide deck with practical tips on how to do this can be found here.
  • A number of speakers shared how the lifetime value of a donor goes up when they are encouraged to complain – even if you don’t address the complaint!
  • Richard Radcliff stated the importance of not using high-pressure sales tactics for planned giving.

The Importance of Mobile

How are you reading this blog? Which device did you last use to check your e-paulmail or Facebook? If you are like most of the world, the answer is likely your mobile device. Mobile devices are the primary device most people use to view online content. And yet as a sector we still think desktop first, mobile second. To truly be successful in a mobile driven world, you need to build your websites, e-mails, landing pages with mobile in mind.


In Dan Pallotta’s opening keynote we were challenged to recognize that the For-Impact sector has as much right to innovation  as the commercial world. He challenged us to hire trouble makers and disrupters. To think big and be bold.

Yet, in the charitable sector there are barriers to diversity.

  • A lack of diversity in our leadership and boards holds us back.
  • charlie hulme5Our boards want to maximize ROI, but that is only telling a part of the story.
  • Our own internal systems and bureaucracies are risk averse. The need for concrete proof that an idea will be successful makes innovation impossible.
  • The culture of charities does not allow for failure and vulnerability. False politeness is often favoured over having real and challenging conversations.

Fundraising is a vocation, not a day job

The final thing that stuck with me from many sessions and conversations was this – we, fundraisers, are more than number crunchers. We are world-changers. Cage-rattlers. We care. We cry. We rage. We’re invested. That spark that first drew you to this sector – keep it with you always.

Want to see more quotes and wisdom from #IFC2015? Check them out here.

Were you at #IFC2015? Share your top take-aways below!


Rory Green

Rory Green has been fundraising since the age of 10, when she volunteered to help run her school’s annual Bike-A-Thon for juvenile cancer research. Fundraising became her vocation at 14, when she lost a friend to Leukemia. Rory Green has been in the philanthropic sector for over eight years and is currently the Associate Director, Advancement for the Faculty of Applied Science at Simon Fraser University. Rory has also worked in major and corporate giving at BCIT and the Canadian Cancer Society. Her passion is donors. How to listen to them. How to talk to them. How to help them feel better about themselves through philanthropy than they ever thought possible. In her spare time Rory is the founder and editor of Fundraiser Grrl, the fundraising community’s go-to source for comic relief.


Melanie Jackson · October 29, 2015 at 18:39

I was a session leader at IFC and absolutely loved the experience. My take-away? Many of our NPOs have lost sight of their ‘why’ … and it is impacting negatively on their relationships with their constituencies – all of them. We need to find our whys again, or we will close our doors!

    Anthony Chng · October 30, 2015 at 07:34

    I was at the IFC too and would agree with Melanie that many a times, the “HOW” took most of the resources and people started forgetting “WHY” we needed to do things..

    Always good to take a step back, reassess and adjust our course to keep us pointed in the right direction.

Paul de Gregorio · October 31, 2015 at 15:21

Best IFC for years.

I personally felt very ‘in it’ this year as I did a masterclass, some workshops and a talk at the IWITOT event. So I met loads of amazing, inspiring and passionate people.

I’ve come away feeling inspired with a real sense that we are going to make some incredible breakthroughs in the next few years that are going to have a huge impact on our world.

Amazing event.

Christina Pashialis · November 6, 2015 at 16:17

Thanks for that ICF summary! Particularly useful slides from Beate Sorum on the importance of UX to get people from intention to donation.

Christina Pulawski | A Leading Prospect Researcher | A Few Great Women · November 3, 2015 at 01:38

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