You can read about it here and here. It concerns questions about how they spent the money raised for relief after hurricane Sandy. The Red Cross is reluctant to hand over information about their fundraising and spending, citing “trade secrets” in its fundraising.
Lots to chew on there, but one aspect struck me.
Do we have – or want – trade secrets in fundraising?
Is the pie limited? Are we really in fierce competition with every other nonprofit for scarce donor dollars? Or could we all learn more from each other – and translate that into better communicating our specific missions?
I opt for learning and generosity. It’s what I’ve experienced. That doesn’t mean I would have shared my donor list with you. But I would have been happy to share how I succeeded at something and why.
And as I did, I’d only be sharing what was already shared with me.
For example: Jerry Huntsinger doesn’t have a clue who I am. But he taught me to write copy. Then he handed over his fabulous newsletter (print, even!) to Mal Warwick, and my lessons continued. Through the years, I’ve been devouring the smarts of people like Tom Ahern, Jeff Brooks and Lisa Sargent. And SOFII? Who doesn’t love them? Generous teachers, all.
I’ve learned from colleagues. And from great co-workers and smart board members and donors.
We share at conferences, in workshops. And now, with the internet, we all have access to a fire hose of information. People give so generously – their successes and their mistakes. Everything is a learning experience. We all want to learn and we all have something to teach. Isn’t generosity at the heart of what we do?
As a consultant, you might think what I’m offering is my knowledge. (Emphasis on the “my”). But that would be so much malarky. It’s not mine. It’s what I’ve learned through experience, yes. But it’s also what other people have shared from their experience. I can contribute my unique mix of learning and my personality. But I don’t claim to own the knowledge.
We have an obligation to donors to learn and to share that information. Donors don’t give to the organizations with the best tricks. They give to the organizations that fit their priorities and move their hearts. And there are enough donors – and enough big hearts – out there for all of us to succeed.