When it’s a good thing to have your head in the clouds

publication date: Jan 9, 2012
author/source: James Temple
The J.W. McConnell Foundation hosted a one-day Toronto conference called Innoweave in November featuring one of Framework's new cloud computing tools, Sharesies. The conference was a chance to look at innovative ways that cloud computing platforms could help strengthen nonprofit governance, fundraising and transparency.James Temple photo

From giving management teams and boards of directors the ability to edit information online and in live time, to highlighting how grants can now be posted, reviewed, approved, and endorsed in the public eye, new technologies are providing nonprofits new opportunities to show the public how they are a source of strength and not weakness, as they are sometimes painted in the media.

Embracing new ideas and technology isn't always easy, especially when it comes to balancing the potential risks and opportunities related to fundraising. I've witnessed many instances where people ignore innovation because they are too comfortable with the same routine.

Fundraisers and corporate grant makers, please take note of some of the biggest pitfalls to avoid as we enter 2012. Reviewing these pitfalls will better educate fundraisers about how to raise money and measure success. It will also provide ideas to help grant makers incorporate technology into improved processes.

Pitfall one: getting stuck in the fundraising silo

There's an old adage:  You can change or be changed. 

Technology isn't always easy to digest, but looking at how it might impact your fundraising portfolio five years from today is half the battle. It really comes down to asking the right kinds of questions to stay informed, and making sure you don't get stuck in your department silo. Some key questions you may ask include:
  • How does a new technology improve the ability to build and strengthen relationships at the heart of any fundraising portfolio? 
  • How will it improve my organization's strategy in the future?  
  • How does this technology change my elevator speech to donors? 
Pitfall two: focus on what isn't vs. what could be

Nonprofits are often guilty of sharing information about what's not going right and the challenges associated with their day-to-day operations. That mindset sets the tone for the expectation of a weak sector. Instead we must focus on opportunities that align well with our unique set of values-based organizational models. Let's talk in a way that empowers us!

Technology can be an enabler, and we need to always see it as such. It must be viewed as the gas that keeps our engine running, not the aging infrastructure. With new applications of software, we now have the ability to communicate faster, more effectively, and more transparently. Given recent media attention around the use of funds at charities, I recommend we take initiative and tell the right story, and not let others tell it for us.  

At the end of the day, I'm really trying to encourage you to think critically about the impact of new ideas. It's about looking at how externalities affect fundraising (or grant making) in ways that aren't always obvious.

This might be the first time someone's telling you to keep your head in the clouds. But when I see amazing new ideas like Sharesies, it makes me think the clouds are a good place to be.

James Temple is the director of corporate responsibility for PwC Canada and director of the PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada Foundation. He oversees a team responsible for integrating good social, environmental and economic values into PwC's decision-making processes.

James is a featured presenter at international conferences, speaking on the value of developing strong corporate-community partnerships. He co-chairs the Association of Corporate Grantmakers and sits on the Advisory Board for the Institute at Havergal College.

Contact him at 416-815-5224, by email, or visit http://www.pwc.com/ca/corporateresponsibility.

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