Today’s post comes from guest blogger Jay LeRoux Dillon, founder of Alumni Identity. I am not sharing this post because Jay was kind enough to include me among those whom he quoted. I am sharing it because the piece provides ample food for thought.
Here’s Jay’s piece which was posted on LinkedIn
Rather than opine, I asked some of the best thought leaders in philanthropy to tackle this topic in a few sentences. They’ve come up with fun and easy-to-interpret views on what fundraising REALLY is. Here’s what they had to say.
Fundraising is Design
Architects generally hate this question (art vs. science). Fundraising at it’s best is design – we create meaningful experiences for others.
- Jason Lewis, Author | Fundraiser | Trainer | Host of the Fundraising Talent Podcast | Adjunct Faculty, York College of Pennsylvania
Fundraising is Truth
The best and most successful fundraising is that which is expressed as an art form that is informed as much as possible by science and data. To ensure that the artful approach is as closely aligned with the truth as possible.
- Nathan Fay, MA CFRE, Associate Vice President, City of Hope | Coined the Phrase “Precision Philanthropy” | Author of Precision Prospect Development
Fundraising is Dance
Whether someone sees fundraising as an art or science may depend on their role. The annual giving leader might say it’s science while the major or principle gifts staffer says art. I’ve focused on these and other functions for 20+ years. I’m actually pretty shocked, maybe more dismayed, when people say fundraising is only art or only science, the two are dance partners. With the right music playing in the background relying on both art and science can help you glide across the floor with less friction (more efficiently) and with winning results (more effectively).
- Sophie Penney, Ph.D., Senior Program Coordinator/Lecturer at Penn State University | President, i5 Fundraising
Fundraising is Questioning
Unless we break fundraising down to components, we have a false choice. Is asking for money art? Is sending appeals science? Is building relationships art? Is knowing our prospects science? A good parallel is this question: is marketing more art or science?
Fundraising is Data
Over many years as a practitioner and now as a consultant, I’ve found the programs that continue to grow and increase performance use data to inform their strategies and tactics. One of the greatest barriers I regularly encounter in helping passionate, caring fundraisers become a strong advancement team pulling together in one direction comes from a culture of relying too much on feelings or what others are doing and not enough on data. Ours is no longer a field that can function on instinct alone.
- Maya Gasuk, Senior Consultant at West Wind Consulting Strategies in Fund Raising, LLC. | Former Director, Cornell University Annual Fund
Fundraising is Narrative
Whether fundraising is more art or science is shaped by the goals, needs, and perspectives of our stakeholders. I continue to work and generate solutions at the intersection of this question and often find that the most well-received solutions are those that incorporate a blend of both elements with an elegant design and captivating narrative.
Fundraising is Identity
Very little of human behavior goes uniformed by our self-identities. The way we act, speak, and give is driven by the values we hold and the roles we play in our own lives. This is not a black box. We can use science to quantify those artful aspects of personality that lead to philanthropic inclination.
What say you, is fundraising an art, science, or both? Share your thoughts here.