By Nigel Harris MBA CFRE FFIA GAICD – Founding Partner (Giving Architects Australia)

Fundraising is about the money, right? We identify it, ask for it, count it, measure it, invest it, and use it. And the word – fundraising – says it all. Or does it? Fundraising suggests money. The experience people have with fundraising revolves around money. We use simple financial metrics without question. But is it an end, or a means? If we focus on activity and measurement that centres on the means, are we really thinking enough about the end? Are we spending enough time understanding what is happening in fundraising and why?

And who is the ‘we’ here? 

I’m assuming as fundraising professionals, it’s not you. You’re all over it. You’re familiar with Hank Rosso’s description of fundraising as a servant of philanthropy. And you understand fundraising provides a means for people to fulfil their philanthropic aspirations and engage with organisations addressing social and environmental issues important to them.

So, if not you, who?  People across the sector say that organisational leadership doesn’t get fundraising. However, research also tells us that the challenge is real.

That there is an understanding gap at leadership level, and the role of leadership, especially the CEO, is critical. And if you’re wondering what research, look at work by Adrian Sargeant (Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy) and Wendy Scaife (Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies at QUT).

How do we change this? There’s no single answer. However, let’s start with reframing what we are dealing with in fundraising. Here we explore and understand the importance of psychological well-being, for donors and fundraisers, as well as how liking and love shapes experience. Delving further into donor’s needs, motivations and identity, and the varying elements of identity, and then exploring concepts of identity transformation, identification and true self enters the world of the donor.

Using this understanding to shape fundraising communication, as well as the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of fundraising, transforms our focus from money to love. It is key to leadership understanding their role in advocacy and representation, as well as supporting fundraisers and investment in fundraising. For more information about philanthropic psychology, look at Jen Shang’s (Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy) work. You may even want to take the course – I recommend it!

And to the question, for love or money? Well, money is important – it makes things happen. However, by focussing on love as a pathway to understanding our donors, the money will come, and the work will be done.