More Thoughts on the 2011 Philanthropy Forecast

The following review of the DLC’s 2011 Philanthropy Forecast appeared in the October 30 issue of The Weekend Briefing, a digest of news, commentary and industry best practice distributed to development directors and other advancement professionals across the country.  The author, Rob Cummings, has served in leadership advancement positions since 1976.  He is presently the chief development officer for the Midwest Province of the Christian Brothers.

It’s a good idea to get out of the house every now and then.  Getting out of the office, reconnecting with professional friends, hearing fresh ideas and new ways of looking at things; that’s a good idea, too.  I did just that a week or so ago and I wanted to tell you about it.

There are a lot of highlights in Clyde Watkins’ distinguished career.  The chairman of the consulting firm Ter Molen, Watkins & Brandt is as close to an icon in Chicago fund raising as one can get these days.  Seventeen years ago Clyde founded the Development Leadership Consortium, an organization whose mission is to mentor fund raising professionals new to the field and to engage them throughout their careers, encouraging their growth into committed, connected leaders of the Chicagoland philanthropic community and beyond.  What a tremendous contribution to our profession that is.

The DLC’s Board of Directors hosts a biennial “Philanthropy Forecast” breakfast that drew a crowd of nearly 200 to the Museum of Contemporary Art on a chilly morning two weeks ago.  This year’s event was titled “Measurement or Myth: Accountability in Fundraising” and explored the benefits and drawbacks of outcome based assessment.  Jamie Phillippe, Vice President for Development and Donor Services at the Chicago Community Trust moderated a dialogue between Jason Saul, the founder and CEO of Mission Measurement, a strategy consulting firm that helps corporations and nonprofits measure and improve their social impact and Adele Simmons, a senior executive at Metropolis Strategies and the former president of the MacArthur Foundation.

To listen to Ms. Simmons reminisce about the funding of the Oslo Israeli/Arab peace summit and about conversations at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland was heady stuff.  Her comments centered on the preeminent role that individual donors continue to have in philanthropy and on the importance of grant making even with less that ideal outcomes.  Mr. Saul’s comments were new to me, and provocative:

“Understand the shift in philanthropy from charity, to purchasing outcomes.  From measuring results to communicating value.  From asking for donations to selling impact.  Understand the market.  Who wants to buy the outcomes you have to sell.  Today, it is less ‘our need to sell’ but ‘the customer’s need to buy'”.

The conversation got me thinking, and I believe that’s the point.  Every day we have to concentrate so hard on what we need to doIt is a refreshing and healthy change of pace to be able to sit back once in a while and be able to not do, but think about our profession.  We’ll focus the Weekend Briefing soon on effective measurement of fund raising outcomes and another weekend, on an idea shared with me during the networking coffee that “the comprehensive capital campaign may be passe’.” How about that?

It was rich conversation, in the company of professional friends old and new.  Great stuff.  Congrats to the Development Leadership Consortium and thank you, Clyde Watkins.

The Quote of the Week is from Jason Saul’s remarks at the Philanthropy Forecast:  “The issue of measurement is a lot like Kim Kardashian.  Both are relevant; we just don’t know why.”

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