By Anastasia Lozhkina, Fundraising Director, Arifmetika Dodra Charitable Foundation, Moscow
In April 2017 I was very lucky to get a chance to spend two weeks at the Gifford Foundation, learning from their leadership and staff about the approaches to capacity building and managing a nonprofit organization in the USA. My trip was supported by the Independent Professional of US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange Program.
One of the main goals of my visit was to learn how local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) raise funds, build communications with the public, motivate their staff and attract volunteers. One of the most useful and encouraging experiences was training sessions on storytelling by Heidi Holtz. Russian philanthropic NGOs are just beginning to use storytelling as a fundraising tool and for now lack expertise and experience. I will definitely apply the knowledge of how to tell a compelling and emotional story that will touch people`s hearts in my fundraising practices in Russia. I was also very impressed by the way the ARISE Foundation uses storytelling to demonstrate their program results, which plays a crucial role in attracting and retaining donors, and in achieving financial sustainability of the foundation. All that I learned just from attending their annual dinner: an event the ARISE Foundation very efficiently uses for fundraising.
One of the most memorable events in the course of my visit was meeting with the local fundraisers: Julie Billings, Executive Director of Friends of the Central Library; Jennifer Owens, Vice President of Development for the Central New York Community Foundation; Melissa Hidek, Development Manager PEACE, Inc.; Denise Headd, Director of Development at Catholic Charities and Nancy Kern Eaton, Chief Development Officer & Director of Inclusive Recreation, ARISE. They provided me with several practical recommendations. For example, I learned about the importance of peer-to-peer approach fundraising, the technologies of digital fundraising as the future of philanthropy and the important role an annual event plays in bringing supporters together. Another important lesson I learned from this meeting was the crucial role board members play in the life of an NGO.
I was also very impressed by the fundraising event of the Museum of Science and Technology of Syracuse. The Museum was very creative in using the “TAP into the MOST” event for attracting new donors both private and corporate. We in Russia organize lots of fundraising events, but TAP into the MOST is one of the most creative and well-prepared fundraising events.
Visiting different nonprofit organizations in the area was a very stimulating experience by itself. I was impressed by the way the leaders of local NGOs spoke about their organizations, how they presented them to a visitor. In my case I even felt motivated to make a contribution to the organization I was visiting! People at American nonprofits have solid skills in presenting their organizations and causes, and that is something worth learning by Russian nonprofit managers.
I would like to express words of gratitude to the team of the Gifford Foundation for giving me an opportunity to become part of their family, even if it was a short stay.