Fundraising Summer School Dublin, 2016. Unlikely place for a revolution to begin? Don't forget 1916: one hundred years ago in this city began the successful final struggle for Irish independence.
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If you had more money, you could do more good. If you do better donor-communications, you'll have more money.
Notably re-quotable
"[New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof] theorized there would be more response if Darfur had 'a suffering puppy with big eyes and floppy ears.' He was right. Every fundraising ask must have a puppy! Not necessarily an actual dog but someone whose story tells the story in a way that touches the heart. The way a puppy does. If you don't have that, you aren't really fundraising. You're just spreading words around, hoping they'll randomly catch people's attention." ~ Jeff Brooks

Photo by John Lepp; the main presenting theatre at Trinity College Dublin

F-Bombs Fall on Dublin
I've never attended a more loving, passionate or pissed-off professional gathering. It's been a year of curated new fundraising conferences. This one felt awesomely revolutionary.

Who, what, when, where, why
To mark the 10th anniversary of Ask Direct, Damian O'Broin's fundraising agency in Dublin, Ireland, decided to host a conference.

Bombs away
I don't know which speaker dropped the F-bomb first in Dublin, at the Ask Direct 2016 Summer School 10th Anniversary Conference held at Trinity College the first two days of September.
            Eventually every presenter I heard went bombs away on stage and well amplified. As if shaking off an obligation they'd carried too long. Even the stately Ken Burnett, who's a bit of an F-bomb Victorian. When the speaker was Irish, it sounded like feck. Fecking. The audience was loudly appreciative.
           I launched mine during a workshop on Loverizing (which is the name hipsters gave the practice of "donor-centricity" a few years ago). But then I have a Soviet-era F-bomb missile complex hidden in the tip of my tongue. Any slender excuse will do for this chappie.

It was a conference where generations conspired

L-r: A sunny day going chilly, one late Dublin afternoon. Damian O'Broin has given us the tour of the 1916 Rising sites. Simone Joyaux hugs her jacket tight. Rory Green and Jen Love stand with her (politically, too!), waiting for the pedestrian-signal countdown. Rory and Jen are both second-generation fundraisers (dads are Fraser Green and David Love). Their "I'm not going to stand for this sexist shit" tolerance bar is very low. {BTW, they approved this message.}

NEW! Plenary topic: Gender imbalance in fundraising
The 2016 Dublin Ask Direct conference was — in my long-running, multi-continental experience — the first time on earth as a major topic the issue of gender oppression in fundraising work was openly, boldly, frankly discussed ... in a plenary called, "Fixing the Gender Imbalance in [Nonprofit] Leadership." On stage: Rory Green, Simone Joyaux, Niamh Ferris, Jen Love.
            "It's about fecking time," as a Dublin taxi driver might say.
            AFP International 2016 in Boston took a swing at the same gender topic, in a Rebels, Renegades and Pioneers session organized by Simone Joyaux. The talk was about power and privilege in the workplace. But — see — those sessions weren't plenaries. Attendance was optional.
            Everyone has to hear this message. Female fundraisers are sometimes treated like mules: beasts of burden ~ haul the ore! Bring in money!!! And shut up. "And we're paying you 24.6% less to boot ... because we can." We saw the research in Dublin. “For the bottom 10% of earners, the Gender Pay Gap ... is 4% but this rises to 24.6% for the top 10% of income earners, suggesting the continued presence of a glass ceiling and indirect discrimination.” Translation: feel free, ladies, to rise in your profession ... just don't expect to be compensated like the guys.
           This is culture change. This takes time. But fundraising is possibly the very best profession to seek true gender equity in the workplace. After all, the people who bring in the money are two-thirds female. And money is power. Photo: quote from Oscar Wilde, on a Dublin street.

The slides that doinked me most
The single slide making the deepest impression on me personally, in a cavalcade of fabulous presentations, was this:

          Allow me to misinterpret.
          As I understand Simon Scriver, from his co-shared "best in show" presentation, Fundraising Lessons from Small Organizations [downloadable soon from; check back monthly], what you see above on his slide are the options for content that he considers each time One in Four, a small Irish charity benefiting victims of sexual abuse where he is the chief (only) fundraiser, contacts a donor.
          "Will I tell a story of hope?" "Will I ask?" "Is there relevant news?"
          I love checklists. This is a checklist.
          Thank you, Simon. And thank you, co-presenter, Caoileann Appleby, volunteer chief fundraiser for Abortion Support Network. In Ireland, abortion is prohibited in the constitution. The government controls all wombs. There are no mitigating circumstances. To abort, even for the direst medical reasons, you must leave the country. Poor women can't. ASN provides assistance.
          My second favorite slide of this entire incredible conference was the following, from the same extraordinary spine-straightening presentation by Simon and Caoileann:

Overheard on the street: How to improve your online giving
Beate Sørum saw a 20% organic increase in giving when she improved the online content and forms of a cancer society. There were no tricks up her sleeve. This was just doing the ordinary stuff better. Her session went gangbusters. Seek her out.

Tony was with us

More than a few speakers lovingly referenced Tony Elischer, deeply missed. I did just one fundraising project with Tony. It was a big, complicated case for a politically charged organization. And it boosted me to a new level -- HE boosted me to a new level. Couldn't have done it without him. Tony was inspiration personified. Died January 12, 2016. Another reason to hate cancer until it's defeated: it doesn't discriminate: it kills the best without a second thought.

What's with the hands?

Summer School speakers, expressing themselves; a hands-a-thon compiled by Ask Direct. L-r: Damian O'Broin, Mark Phillips, Sean Triner, John Lepp, Jen Love, Rory Green, Niamh Ferris, Kiki Koutmeridou,Tom Ahern, Beate Sørum, Caoileann Appleby, Simon Scriver, Alan Clayton, Ken Burnett, Simone Joyaux

...based on a true story...
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It's cute, OK?
For your wall

Jeff Brooks created this poster for himself. It hangs in his Seattle office to remind him of an important element in fundraising copywriting: you must have a puppy. Click on the image to download your own copy. Make sure your boss has a copy, too.
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"Idea generator" for social media content 
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An instant classic from the pen of Pam Grow, this deep analysis of how Taylor Swift has built her brand with fans will give you a bouquet of ideas to try with your donors. Subscribe to Pam and to NonProfit Pro.
...charitable bequest marketing made easy...
This Tuesday, Sept. 20, my webinar on bequests

Mark your calendar: Tuesday, September 20. Fact #1: charitable bequests are easy to sell. Fact #2: you already know your best prospects. Fact #3: bequests will help ensure the financial viability of your cause for the long term, helping to end the constant scramble for funding. Fact #4: you'll likely see your bequest pipeline start to flow within three years. This will be the last time this year this popular webinar will be offered. Enroll?
...starting Monday, September 19...

It's a virtual camp where you learn how to love your donors ... so they love you back. Counselors Beth Ann Locke and Shanon Doolittle are about to host their 7th online camp. Get the latest research. Hone the skills you need to hit the gratitude bulls-eye with your thank you letters. Learn the art and craft of handwritten notes. Dive into thank you call scripts that have your donors swimming in appreciation. Explore new ways to add value and more meaning to your giving clubs. Discover how to create stewardship events that feel like warm and happy campfires. Check out the testimonials here. training by one of the very best! To entice you to consider the...
2016 Nonprofit Storytelling Conference ... in Chicago. The Legend!!! November 10-11, 2016.
NEW!!! FREE FREE FREE "how-to" videos by 2016 Storytelling Conference speaker, Kivi Leroux Miller: (1) How to plan a story arc; and (2) Creating a story-based editorial calendar. Speaking from her new porch which is, along with her family, something of a Lifetime Achievement Award thingee for Kivi.

T-shirts for donor comm nerds (like me)

Stock up for the blustery days of fall and the absolutely freezing days of winter. Yes, I'm talking about what to wear to board meetings and annual reviews. Tom Ahern's wordy T-shirt store.
Copyright © 2016, Tom Ahern, All rights reserved.
Though you should feel free to share, copy or reproduce the contents, with attribution.

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