F-Bombs Fall on Dublin

dublin1I’ve never attended a more loving, passionate or pissed-off professional gathering. It’s been a year of curated new fundraising conferences. This one felt awesomely revolutionary.

Who, what, when, where, why
To mark the 10th anniversary of Ask Direct, Damian O’Broin’s fundraising agency in Dublin, Ireland, decided to host a conference.

Bombs away
I don’t know which speaker dropped the F-bomb first in Dublin, at the Ask Direct 2016 Summer School 10th Anniversary Conference held at Trinity College the first two days of September.

Eventually every presenter I heard went bombs away on stage and well amplified. As if shaking off an obligation they’d carried too long. Even the stately Ken Burnett, who’s a bit of an F-bomb Victorian. When the speaker was Irish, it sounded like feck. Fecking. The audience was loudly appreciative.

I launched mine during a workshop on Loverizing (which is the name hipsters gave the practice of “donor-centricity” a few years ago). But then I have a Soviet-era F-bomb missile complex hidden in the tip of my tongue. Any slender excuse will do for this chappie.

Seats photo by John Lepp, Agents of Good.

It was a conference where generations conspired
dublin2L-r: A sunny day going chilly, one late Dublin afternoon. Damian O’Broin has given us the tour of the 1916 Rising sites. Simone Joyaux hugs her jacket tight. Rory Green and Jen Love stand with her (politically, too!), waiting for the pedestrian-signal countdown. Rory and Jen are both second-generation fundraisers (dads are Fraser Green and David Love). Their “I’m not going to stand for this sexist shit” tolerance bar is very low. {BTW, they approved this message.}

dublin3NEW! Plenary topic: Gender inequities in fundraising
The 2016 Dublin Ask Direct conference was — in my long-running, multi-continental experience — the first time on earth as a major topic the issue of gender oppression in fundraising work was openly, boldly, frankly discussed … in a plenary called, “Fixing the Gender Imbalance in [Nonprofit] Leadership.” On stage: Rory Green, Simone Joyaux, Niamh Ferris, Jen Love.

“It’s about fecking time,” as a Dublin taxi driver might say.

AFP International 2016 in Boston took a swing at the same gender topic, in a Rebels, Renegades and Pioneers session organized by Simone Joyaux. The talk was about power and privilege in the workplace. But — see — those sessions weren’t plenaries. Attendance was optional.

Everyone has to hear this message. Female fundraisers are sometimes treated like mules: beasts of burden ~ haul the ore! Bring in money!!! And shut up. “And we’re paying you 24.6% less to boot … because we can.” We saw the research in Dublin. “For the bottom 10% of earners, the Gender Pay Gap … is 4% but this rises to 24.6% for the top 10% of income earners, suggesting the continued presence of a glass ceiling and indirect discrimination.” Translation: feel free, ladies, to rise in your profession … just don’t expect to be compensated like the guys.

This is culture change. This takes time. But fundraising is possibly the very best profession to seek true gender equity in the workplace. After all, the people who bring in the money are two-thirds female. And money is power. Photo: quote from Oscar Wilde, on a Dublin street.

The slides that doinked me most
The single slide making the deepest impression on me personally, in a cavalcade of fabulous presentations, was this:

dublin4Allow me to misinterpret.

As I understand Simon Scriver, from his co-shared “best in show” presentation, Fundraising Lessons from Small Organizations [downloadable soon from SOFII.org; check back monthly], what you see above on his slide are the options for content that he considers each time One in Four, a small Irish charity benefiting victims of sexual abuse where he is the chief (only) fundraiser, contacts a donor.

“Will I tell a story of hope?” “Will I ask?” “Is there relevant news?”

I love checklists. This is a checklist.

Thank you, Simon. And thank you, co-presenter, Caoileann Appleby, volunteer chief fundraiser for Abortion Support Network. In Ireland, abortion is prohibited in the constitution. The government controls all wombs. There are no mitigating circumstances. To abort, you must leave the country. Poor women can’t. ASN provides assistance.

My second favorite slide of this entire incredible conference was the following, from the same extraordinary spine-straightening presentation by Simon and Caoileann:dublin5

Overheard on the street
Beate Sørum saw a 20% organic increase in giving when she improved the content and forms of a cancer society. There were no tricks. This was just doing the same stuff better. Her session went gangbusters.

dublin6Tony was with us
More than a few speakers lovingly referenced Tony Elischer, deeply missed.

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