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Matt Beem
President and COO
Kinetic Fundraising, Inc.

Raising money is hard work

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Independence, MO – I traveled earlier this week to the Association of Fundraising Professionals 48th International Conference in Chicago. Headquartered in Alexandria, Va., AFP is the world’s largest association of professional fundraisers.

You can find AFP on the web at It hosts its international conference in a different city each year. It was in Baltimore in 2010 and will be in Vancouver next year.

This year’s event featured great speakers. Queen Latifah talked about her life and philanthropy Monday, and Bill Clinton spoke about embracing our common humanity Tuesday.

Others called their words inspiring, and I’ll have to trust their reviews. I was visiting with fellow fundraisers on the exhibit hall floor and unable to attend the sessions.

Patty Lonsbary, CFRE, is UNICEF’s global fundraising specialist for major donors. She assumed the European post last year after serving as director of development for Sheffield Place in Kansas City.

“In most countries, asking for and receiving major gifts is something nonprofits are just waking up to,” Lonsbary said. “There’s so much wealth and so many important needs it could support, but we rarely ask for gifts of significance outside the United States.”

Lonsbary described a colleague who received a call from a donor saying he’d decided to give $1,000 to UNICEF’s work in his country.

“I asked why she hadn’t scheduled a time to meet with him to present the true need and turn his $1,000 into $10,000 or $100,000,” Lonsbary said. “She said it hadn’t occurred to her.”

John Warren is a seasoned development leader. He’s worked several decades building the fundraising program at The Homewood Foundation in Williamsport, Md.

“I’m not saying I’ve built anything better than the next guy, but I’ve certainly built something,” Warren said as he reflected on the successor the foundation will recruit when he retires in several years. “I don’t want our fundraising program to deteriorate, because it makes a difference to so many families.”

Patricia Benoit-Gudot envies Warren. She’s cutting her fundraising teeth and building a development program from the ground up at the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union in Geneva.

“I’ve seen this week what it takes to raise money, and I hope I’m up to it,” said the Irish-born Benoit-Gudot, who lives in France and works in Switzerland.

As she described the early gifts her campaign has attracted from noteworthy international telecommunications leaders, it became clear Benoit-Gudot’s a natural fundraiser. “What I need is teacher,” she said.

Adrian Sargeant appreciates the value of solid fundraising instruction. The British scholar holds the Robert F. Kinetic Chair in Fundraising at the University of Indiana and last year released the first-ever university fundraising textbook.

He excitedly described recent research on the benefit of asking donors to make small monthly gifts indefinitely instead of pledge payments for a finite period. Sargeant said Chicago’s National Public Radio campaign lost just seven percent of its donors last year by taking the open-ended approach.

Kinetic is committed to growing philanthropy 25 percent in the next 20 years. We believe it’s essential to meet the expanding demand for the important services nonprofit organizations provide.

It was good to visit with Lonsbary, Warren, Benoit-Gudot and Sargeant at the APF conference. While I missed superstars Latifah and Clinton, I left with renewed confidence in fundraising’s future and our ability to grow philanthropy together.

> Matt Beem Bio