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Talking Shop: Raising Gifts, Sharing GIFs
Talking Shop: Raising Gifts, Sharing GIFs

Rory Green’s blog reveals the wacky lives of fundraisers

By Toni Coleman

Rory Green, Associate director of advancement, Faculty of Applied Sciences, at Simon Fraser University in Canada

Rory Green is a second-generation development officer—both of her parents were fundraisers—and the founder of Fundraiser Grrl, a cheeky crowdsourced blog about the rewarding, frustrating, and downright outlandish things fundraisers experience. Through the GIF-driven posts, fundraisers both celebrate and gripe about their professional lives. Face palms, snark, and funny tales abound.

How would you describe Fundraiser Grrl?

I describe it as the nonprofit community's go-to source for comic release, an outlet to channel the many emotions we feel as fundraising professionals in a fun, lighthearted, and humorous way. The No. 1 thing people say to me is, "It's so great to feel like I'm not alone, that I'm not crazy, that these are normal emotional reactions to these situations"—from feeling like a rock star when a $100 ask yields a $1,000 gift to the frustration of dealing with fundraisers who refuse to update their donor-contact forms. They get a sense of community from that.

Why are GIFs such powerful communication tools?

The human face expresses emotion better than anything, and it's so much more effective than if I wrote, "This happened, and it made me want to roll my eyes." With a GIF, you can instantly identify that emotion and relate really quickly. So when you have an event and everything's going wrong, you can relate to that GIF of Batman frantically running to discard a lit bomb.

What have you learned that horrifies you about the fundraising practices of others?

What worries me is that a lot of fundraisers are working for people who shouldn't be bosses. People in this sector are promoted based on their ability to raise money, not on their ability to lead and manage people. The average job tenure in fundraising is 12 to 15 months, and I think that is a sign of unhappiness or some kind of deeper problem. We need to invest in emerging leaders to give them training so that they understand things like emotional intelligence and how to deliver feedback.

What's your favorite post on the site?

Oh, gosh. There are thousands. One woman submitted that a volunteer had collected all the cat hair from a shelter and knitted it into a cat hair sweater and then tried to donate it. Why would anyone want that? Oh, another good one: A donor sent, in a business-reply envelope, packages of hot sauce. That's such a ridiculous thing to send to a charity. People, by nature, are a little bit kooky, and in our sector we sometimes come into the crosshairs of that kookiness.

What have you learned about digital marketing since you began the blog?

Community is key, so reaching out, finding ways to partner, and engaging with people is crucial. Because of its visual nature, Facebook is a much better place to share funny stuff than Twitter. I think of the blog as a conversation. Letting people add their voices gives them ownership and creates a community in a powerful way.

If you were to disrupt fundraising, what's your big idea?

Put the donor first. So much of the charitable sector is built around the organization and what it wants. At a previous employer, we received a check from a donor who wanted it cashed, wanted his tax receipt, and then later for us to together decide how to spend that money. I was told we can't cash that check until we know exactly where it's going. To me the policy says, what matters is our systems, our processes, and there's no flexibility for this generous individual. I think if we built our programs from the donors up instead of organizations' needs out, fundraising would look a lot different.

About the Author Toni Coleman

Toni Coleman is the interim editor in chief of Currents.




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