The South African Institute of Fundraising Conference has concluded, leaving behind some very enjoyable times, knowledge gained and friends made. My final presentation rediscovered my passion for fundraising when a young fundraiser asked about my approach to major gifts. His comment was that in South Africa, fundraisers are often expected to make an ask on the very first visit. He contended that there is very little patience for cultivation to mature. Some of this is understandable, as the need for South African charities is so great. Just last night, we heard from an HIV charity that the US government shutdown is threatening to cut off vital funding. Incredibly tragic and totally preventable. To my point, however, is that we all need to respect and honor the fundraising process. To be in a hurry is typically being doomed to failure. I told the young man that he needed to tell his boss things from the donor perspective. If his boss were the prospect, how would he feel about being solicited for a large sum of money from a total stranger? Not too cool, is it? Fortunately, I really believe events like the SAIF Conference are helping to create a better understanding of the major gifts process. I for one was very enthused by the reaction to my plenary on major donor discovery calls (the topic of my book, of course). It seems there is a great thirst for understanding the intricacies of major gifts, and how we as fundraisers must continually work diligently to uncover new prospects on an ongoing basis. I feel very positively that the audience appeared to be on their way toward this line of thinking and strategy.
As for the SAIF experience overall, it was incredible. I have never met a more lovely and caring group of people. The conference attracted a total of 21 speakers, including such well known philanthropy experts as Bernard Ross, Stephen PIdgeon and Guy Mallabone. It was an honor and a thrill to be a part of this esteemed cohort. As I said, the time in Johannesburg relit my passion for philanthropy, and I am feeling incredibly blessed to have had the experience.