In a fundraising tornado in Texas

At the end of May I had the great pleasure and honour of speaking at the 2019 Dallas/Fort Worth – AFP Philanthropy in Action Conference, along with such great fundraising friends and colleagues as Dr Adrian Sargeant, Anna Barber, Simone P. Joyaux ACFRE, Tim Kachuriak, and Marcy Heim.

I spoke on the theme of “Fundraising Trends, Opportunities, and Challenges in a Changing Worldto a packed room of 250 fundraising from region. Indeed the room was packed for both my sessions until half-way through my afternoon session the Irving Convention Center staff walked into the room to calmly announce that we all had to immediately evacuate and follow them to the immense ground floor, concrete reinforced storm shelter as a massive tornado was heading in our direction. I rarely get stopped in my tracks after some 35 years of presenting at fundraising events, this time the was no question of my carrying on whist the rood was being ripped off.

Thankfully, the tornado, one of many raging across the USA during that week along with all the accompanying damage left in their violent paths, whilst torrential rains and floods hit many other parts of the country. Of course, there is no such thing as climate change…according to the present incumbent of the White House!

What impressed me enormously about the Dallas/Fort Worth Philanthropy in Action Conference was that the 2019 DFW Conference Chair, my good friend and colleague Paul Dunne CFRE, had deliberately and consciously intended to create a storm at this year’s event. He not only ripped up the rule book of how a conference should be structured by only having 4 sessions that repeated but he brought in international speakers from the UK, Spain and the USA that he knew would deliberately challenge the local fundraising community into rethinking, the “how, why and what” of their daily fundraising norms. He consciously wanted a wakeup call to be sent, loud and clear that “business as usual” simply was not good enough.

It worked.

From the challenging and inspiring opening breakfast plenary from Dr Adrian Sergeant; the fiery tirades against complacency, racism, bigotry and ignorance from Simone Joyaux, under full license to shock in her “UNCENSORED & UNPLUGGED” session; the amazing story by Anna Barber of “From Zero to $300M: Raising the Private Philanthropic Support to Build the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture”; Tim Kachuriak opening our eyes with What We Learned About What Works (and What Doesn’t) From Over 1,400 Online Experiments and a highly entertaining and musical lunchtime plenary from the unique Marcy Heim combining her professional all singing/all dancing stagecraft combined with PowerPoint with her performance of “Invest in JOY! — Unleashing a Lifestyle of Generosity.”

For myself I enjoyed the enthusiasm of the audience and the thoughtful and challenging questions that they posed to me in my sessions as I introduced them to some of the pioneering fundraising innovations and developments in fundraising from Austria, to China, via South Korea. They say that “Everything is BIG in Texas” …. except automated monthly giving, face to face, SMS, integrated social/media telephone that is.