Back in November, I spent some time in Sydney and Melbourne working with colleagues from DTV Australia. The purpose was to help a host of great causes unlock the potential of TV fundraising, as well as joining my colleague, Nicola Long, and Gavin Coopey from More Strategic, to create and host our annual IFC beer and pizza evenings.

Through these events we bring together a slice of the Aussie fundraising community to share what we and they have learned at last October’s International Fundraising Congress in The Netherlands. Shared learning. Great questions. Beer and pizza. As you can imagine, they are great evenings!

Insight, ideas, knowledge

The thing that strikes me most about these evenings is the genuine commitment to the greater good. No-one seems to think, I have some insight that will give me an advantage. Instead, it’s a case of, We have some insight, ideas and knowledge that might help us all. You don’t see that attitude in other sectors and it can be too easy to take it for granted.

The first thing I shared was a quote from the opening plenary speaker, William Kamkwamba, whose name you may recognise from the book and the film, The Boy who Harnessed the Wind.

He said, “Talent is universal but opportunity is not.” As soon as he said it, I looked around and saw scores of people immediately spreading his words on social media. His short statement seemed to get to the heart of what drives us to do the work we do, and just why it can feel like a privilege to serve such great causes.

Made in Korea

Nicola, head of DTV Australia, then shared the winning presentation from this year’s IFC Big Stage Sessions, #iwitot (that’s, ‘I wish I’d thought of that’).

The winning presentation came from Borie Han of DTV Korea, who talked about Twinkle, Twinkle Little Box, a campaign from the Good Neighbours charity in Korea, which found an innovative way to inspire people to help girls suffering from period poverty. Around 100,000 girls in Korea cannot afford proper sanitary protection and so have to resort to using tissues, paper or even their shoe insoles when they have their periods.

The campaign created a box not just of basic sanitary protection, but also a mini hot water bottle and more items that went beyond the most basic needs. We hear a lot about the merits of going above and beyond in ‘supporter
care’, but this was extra special ‘beneficiary care’.

More innovation came in how the campaign was promoted, enlisting the support of Korean YouTubers to produce unboxing videos. We see these unboxing campaigns all the time for commercial products like the latest iPhone, but not for good causes.

Borie wowed the audience, especially when she said she had been so impressed by the campaign that she found and recruited the person who had created it!

Gavin then unpacked some of the big trends he had witnessed at IFC and how these had changed since 2018. Here’s his view:

“There were four areas that we saw less of, or nothing of, at IFC 2019 compared to the previous year. First, blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Maybe that was 2018’s shiny new thing and the novelty may have worn off?

“Then, compliance and GDPR. Certainly, the GDPR focus is now behind most organisations in Europe. Meanwhile, donor experience seems to have morphed into ‘journey mapping’ and ‘customer experience’.

“Thirdly, quality control and face to face. It’s worth noting here that face to face now has its own conference.

“Finally, declining trust and uncertain times. There is no suggestion here that our times have become any less uncertain than they were, far from it. Maybe it is more that uncertainty is the new norm?”

What did we see more of at IFC 2019? A whole host of issues, including:

  • behavioural economics and neuroscience
  • storytelling, storytelling, and did I mention storytelling?
  • customer experience mapping and donor love
  • mid-level donor strategies and programs
  • the next tech revolution: AI, voice tech and video gaming – particularly voice
  • digital, Facebook, social
  • higher level philanthropy
  • transformational leadership
  • culture, coaching, mentoring and diversity.

“This is evidence of a sector that continues to have a great thirst for learning and development, which is vital given the increasing need for the work that is fuelled by fundraisers,” says Gavin.

We are all connected

Away from the beer and pizza evenings, I witnessed first-hand the wonderful spirit of volunteering that pervades Aussie society.

Flying into Sydney, I’d seen the wall of smoke across the horizon. Two nights later I woke at 3am to the smell of ash drifting into the city. Sydney Harbour was at times a haze.

It’s one thing to sit safely in Europe and see news reports of bushfires and another thing to wake in the night smelling them: to have colleagues daily on the brink of evacuation, to have a workshop with the Australian Red Cross interrupted with emergency calls, and to know that Nicola, who runs our Sydney office, has a fine husband who is working as a volunteer fire fighter. Volunteers fighting fires. Volunteers equipping evacuation shelters. Volunteers running into fires to pluck koalas from the inferno. It all seemed like part of the national DNA.

During our IFC evening in Sydney, I found myself chatting to Steve Martin from The Fred Hollows Foundation. He mentioned a great appeal he had seen that day from Greenpeace about the bushfires. This was early December, when it was already clear that this season’s bushfires were especially early and fierce.

I immediately imagined Greenpeace would have made the obvious connection between climate change and the bushfires. I was envisaging the appeal with a typically in-your-face Greenpeace headline, maybe something along the lines of, FFS, now will you listen?!

But I was wrong, because Greenpeace is so much smarter than that. Their email appeal did ask for money. And it was about the fires. But it asked you to give money not to Greenpeace but to the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

I can’t recall having ever seen something like that before. A brilliant cause living its iconoclastic brand values by asking you to give to the local Aussie heroes of the RFS. That’s what solidarity looks like. That’s what causal intersectionality looks like. That’s what putting your brand values into action looks like.

Would your organisation sign off on a message like that? I have no doubt that it’s a great move from Greenpeace to stand together with other causes when backs are against the wall.

This point of collaboration isn’t just ‘a good thing’. It’s an issue that comes up again and again from the public when carrying out research. As Gavin noted: “In both qualitative and quantitative research we hear donors say they don’t like to feel charities are competitive. In fact, they love to hear of charities collaborating. Every time it is discussed or surveyed they confirm this. If you want to be donor centric, it’s an important issue to understand.”

In our increasingly interconnected world, let’s remember just how inextricably linked our missions are. We work for our causes but also for a greater good. Better together.

Derek Humphries

Derek is Creative Strategist/ Director at the DTV Group. He is an advisory panel member at Rogare, a fundraising think tank that is delivering a project around the ethics of imagery in fundraising. If you have views on these issues, contact him at