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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The International School of Fundraising

The International School of Fundraising
My wife, Kathi, and I just returned from our first visit to the United Kingdom.  I was invited to speak at the International School of Fundraising, held at Wellington College and sponsored by The Leadership Institute

About 70 individuals attended from the US, Europe (UK, Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland and Yugoslavia), Africa (Nigeria), Mexico, and South America (Guatemala, Chile, Brazil).  Some were in their 20s and others were in their 50s.  Some had extensive experience in raising funds in their country and others were just beginning the learning process.  There was one thing they all had in common, though, and that was enthusiasm for the organizations with which they worked.

Before I went to the conference, I wondered how a presentation would be valuable from someone like me who was unfamiliar with their postal regulations, their culture, and their language.

Fortunately, most of the participants spoke English, but for those who did not, a Spanish translator was present to translate the presentations concurrently with the speakers.  As far as the culture and postage regulations were concerned, the participants seemed to be able to apply what was presented to their own particular circumstances.  For instance, in Poland there is no discounted bulk rate for nonprofits to use and the postal system is somewhat unreliable and politicized.  They simply adapted to the situation by handing out millions of flyers door to door that provided an opportunity for the person to donate to their cause.  This particular organization had more than 200,000 donors in a nation of under 40 million.

In Italy there was an absence of donor lists for prospecting purposes so they basically used the telephone book and selected areas that they thought were likely to donate to their cause.  Because asking for money is so new to Italy and because there is little or no competition, their donation rates are above 5% using this process!  They, too, have a donor file of more than 200,000.

In Chile, one of the participants had run against and defeated a long-time incumbent Communist Party Congressman using direct mail techniques he had learned from attending another
Leadership Institute School.

While the presentations from the U.S. “faculty” members were very good, I thought that these personal examples from individuals who had pioneered direct mail fundraising in their home countries were the most inspiring.

Of course, the lessons of writing good copy, making a strong case, and closing the sale apply regardless of the medium used.

The most important thing I gained from this experience was the inspiration I received from people around the globe who were champions for freedom in their home country.  It was encouraging to know that all across the world there are advocates for faith, freedom, and virtue who are tireless in their efforts to push forward the boundaries of freedom.  They understand the power of free markets and the power of ideas.  It encouraged me to believe that freedom can triumph in spite of setbacks from those who believe that a small elite should govern the lives of men and women rather than let them govern their own lives.

While you and I may be dismayed at our fellow Americans who have no understanding of the foundations of a free society and who seem willing to trade their freedom for the false security of a big government nanny, clearly there are those who face a much worse and much more immediate loss of their freedoms in South America, in Africa, and in Europe.

Yet they fight on, as you and I must also, so that our children and our grandchildren will live in freedom.

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