In Fundraising Magazine this week, Dame Stephanie Shirley talks about what she likes to hear from charities if she is going to consider funding them. “We’re moving into a different area”, or “We’re developing that for pre-natals”, or “We’re developing that for old people”. Dame Stephanie (or Steve as I think she prefers to be known) looks for development, for innovation, and says that she really doesn’t support charities who are just doing more of the same.
I imagine that many philanthropists are of a similar mindset. Many have made their wealth through being innovators, entrepreneurs, developers of products and services. In commerce, you don’t get ahead by standing still. You innovate. People identify with themselves, and so if you want to attract philanthropists who have built their businesses from the bottom up, you need to show that you are not standing still either. Be prepared also for such philanthropists to want to give an input. I know that can make a fundraiser’s heart sink – but remember, these are highly intelligent people who have got where they are because they are a cut above the rest. Whilst not all of their skills and experience will translate directly into the non-profit sector, if you provide them with a proper personal induction into your work, the need for it, the issues around it, you may be very pleasantly surprised by the practical, as well as the financial, contributions that philanthropists can make.