It has now been three months since I left but prior to that and for the past four and a half years, I was blessed with the most amazing job I ever had – being the Global Legacy Manager at Greenpeace International. It was a daunting (read: scary) job but I pulled my big girl trousers and tackled the job with enthusiasm, humility and excitement.
As with any job, in any organization, in any country there were challenges but to counter that, there were a lot of opportunities. Armed with my passport, I set out to meet colleagues in our Greenpeace offices as well as other fundraising professionals through public speaking at conferences. The amount of learning and growth cannot be understated here.
Now that I’ve moved on to different pastures, let me share some reflections after visiting over 20 countries for work and for conferences.
The grass is NOT *always* greener on the other side
We tend to think that others are doing things better than we are, or that they don’t have the same struggles, etc. Let me tell you a little secret – everyone has the same struggles. Whether they’re in Switzerland, USA, Sweden, New Zealand or South Africa, legacy professionals struggle with management’s reticence to invest in legacies, or to have colleagues engage in legacy conversations with supporters, or to have a prominent spot in the organization’s bi-annual newsletter. Whatever the issue, they are also experiencing it.
You are not alone in your struggle. The challenges legacy professionals face are universal. You have a tribe, rely on each other to find solutions and coping mechanisms.
Human behaviour doesn’t vary all that much
One of the most common things heard in fundraising is: but our donors are different, this won’t work here. Yet, donor behaviour ends up being very similar in every country, whether they’re in Sweden, Germany or Mexico. Granted, there are some cultural and social differences but at the end of the day, when it comes to making a decision to help someone else through a gift, donors behave very similarly.
The underlying message of the “that won’t work here” comment is fear, it’s misunderstanding. We encounter that almost every day, to varying degrees. When someone reacts this way toward legacy giving, dig deeper into what they don’t comprehend or where their fears lie. What they reveal will help you know how to address those fears or misunderstandings.
Learn from the underdog
Who doesn’t love a great underdog story that gives you all the feels? Yet when it comes to practical work, it’s a normal reaction to turn to those who are successful as a source of inspiration and ideas. Taking the time to learn more about the struggles, opportunities and ways of working of nonprofits in less philanthropically developed markets can help spark new ideas you wouldn’t have thought of.
Take the time to connect with counterparts in other countries. LinkedIn has made it so much easier to meet new colleagues elsewhere in the world – go explore virtually!
Success doesn’t equate best practices
This one can be a bit touchy with some and it is closely related to the previous point. An organization that raises a lot of funds though legacy giving does not necessarily mean they are applying best practices or are ethical in their activities. It’s easy to simply take things at face value without digging deeper into their strategy or practices before we espouse their tactics as being something to be replicated.
Instead, be critical and analytical in your assessment of other, more established organizations and then carve your own path to success. Let’s stop trying to copy-paste and instead, innovate!