As part of my professional development this year I am participating in Madison Downunder, which is presented by the Fundraising Institute of Australia in the Barossa Valley in conjunction with the Madison Institute, University of Madison, Wisconsin.
It’s a four and a half day intensive training, broken up into streams such as: Donor Direct: Ask and You Shall Receive, Major Gifts: Reeling in the Big One, Bequests, and Strategic Leadership.
Being a beginner fundraiser I enrolled in Ask and You Shall Receive (carefully avoiding noticing the Donor Direct part of the title). Lo and behold I discovered I was in training for direct marketing and telemarketing! Professional and intense approaches to donor acquisition, conversion and retention, and a sudden desire to rethink my whole vocabulary.
After the initial shock of realising that we could possibly have more than one donation a week coming in if we implement some slight changes to our fundraising plan – well actually, if we write and implement a fundraising plan, I have developed an intense desire to do everything and do everything now. But of course, there is budget to consider as well as the words testing testing testing. Apparently with writing to donors, phoning donors, or asking donors to donate via facebook one must test and sample and try and modify. Which is great if you like to read metrics and graphs and demographic information – but is not so great for those of us who are impatient and just want immediate results.
However, what I am getting from these four days is a fabulous overview of all the different channels and methods and ways of potentially connecting with people who might want to support our organisation, and getting a little bit of a reality check and feasibility study into it at the very same time. From where I am coming from – which is a very low base – that is, at the very beginning of having a serious and consistent fundraising plan, it is going to be invaluable, both in giving me the tools and understanding to know what we might be able to do, and how much it might cost, as well as the ability to articulate to our board why these different methods might be useful and good for the organisation.
The tutors for our course are Ann Thompson-Haas, Maurice Henderson, Director, Henderson Partners Fundraising Consultants, South Australia, and Tracey Finlay from St Ignatious College, Adelaide.
They are providing a wealth of experience, anecdotes, research and information which is stimulating and thought provoking – I think that there may be more questions being raised than answered – not because of how the curriculum is designed but because everytime you get a little bit of information it naturally raises more questions, how tos and then whats.
One very interesting aspect of this training is that there seem to be a lot of repeat offenders here – people who come back year after year and do different tracks and talk enthusiastically about how Madison Downunder changed their professional fundraising life.
And of course, the networking benefits of meeting peers and people working under similar pressures, time constraints, budgets etc is always great. One of my colleagues here was telling me tonight that the best thing about these conferences and gatherings is that you no longer feel alone in what you are doing.
Have you participated in Madison Downunder or similar training? If so, let us know your thoughts and views on it?
How important is professional development in fundraising – or do you mostly work by trial and error?
I look forward to your comments.
PS – thanks muchly to ASI SMART Company Scholarship Fund for paying to make my attendance here possible.