Why fundraisers should read development blogs
I have a confession to make: Although I am a fundraiser/marketer/communicator I am also a development groupie. “A what?” you ask. Well… I spend my free time reading the books and blogs of development practitioners, some are experts. Which is why Linda Raftree’s recent post on “Why aid and development workers should be reading blogs” has compelled me to write this post; as the circle of beneficiaries is not limited to development workers alone.
Fundraisers: I know what you’re thinking “I have enough on my plate. Deadlines. Targets. Pressure. Emails… How can I squeeze this in?” I encourage you to make time, even if it means shuffling your facebook time to blogs. It will make you better at your job. Here’s why:
You will better understand your “Product”
Every good marketer understands that to best promote your product you need to understand what you are selling. Although, I hate using these terms (it demeans and simplifies the work and people we partner with), development blogs can teach you an endless amount about your “product”. Eliminating poverty is not easy or fast. It’s not something you will learn in a day/month/year. The context is ever-changing, complex and unpredictable. There is significant theory, applications/case studies to learn from and similar to social media, you need to follow the experts and trends to stay relevant. Even though I have been mentored by aid veterans for years, I learn something new every day that compels me to re-think what I am doing and challenges me.
At World Vision Australia, new staff complete a class entitled “Why is that child poor?” an overview of poverty alleviation through lessons from aid and development experts. It’s an excellent course, but in two days the quantity of information can be overwhelming, especially to a novice. Reading development blogs is a natural extension to a course like this. You continually learn and process information that will help you to best understand your “product” and to keep your strategies relevant to the context you’re raising funds for.
Donors want more
Those compelled to truly make a difference have (mostly) become apathetic to the elevator speech about “simple” solutions to poverty. Donors are hungry for more information and want to know where their dollar a day is going. I have daily conversations with donors on this topic. So far, we have only scratched the surface in explaining sustainable community development and disaster relief. Development blogs are a treasure chest of information that explain both. I saw this in action on the vlogger trip, where one of our info-hungry vloggers used these blogs to help answer complex questions and create compelling new ways of explaining community development. Additionally, our lack of explanations of the complexities of development have driven some donors away from community development (a “hand up”) and toward direct benefits (a “hand out”). Case in point: undesignated funds. Many donors are skeptical and resistant to give to this type of funding because it appears to lack accountability. Many INGOs have completely failed to explain the value, impact and flexibility of this type of funding. Instead, donors give elsewhere because they know exactly where their money is going rather than deciding where it can be used best. And why wouldn’t you!? Use development blogs to better understand the complexities of development. Then, use your marketing brilliance to share these insights with your info-hungry donors.
You’ll stay current in your own field
Many prominent development bloggers cross lines between community development and new media communications. They give commentary on a multitude of marketing campaigns, communication techniques, donor promises and emerging INGOs. I find it far easier to understand what my peers are doing via these blogs than through my own means. It was through these bloggers (and my brilliant boyfriend, a fellow development groupie) that I first heard of “1 million t-shirts” and of Save the Children’s “Lottery of Life” campaign. Even if you don’t agree with some of the commentary, it’s wonderful to have access to consolidated information on the latest marketing campaigns.
There are many more reasons, but these are my top three. If you want more, let me know. Linda’s post gives a long list of prominent bloggers, personally my “go tos” are:
Disclaimer: expect cynicism. These are not warm, fuzzy blogs. They are more critical toward fundraising efforts than they are praising. Personally, I believe this is because many of the campaigns they critique are ones that trivialize their work and the people they aim to help (“Viral” from Tales from the Hood alludes to this). That said, do not allow their critical stance to discourage you from engaging with the writers directly. I have found all bloggers to be approachable, considerate and affirming. Whenever I have had questions (even ones I thought were stupid) they have been an incredible resource and I value these relationships immensely.