Monday, May 20, 2013

Keep Things Fun

A fundraising event with a fun, festive, social atmosphere focused on the positive impact of the donor's gift, increases individual giving and fosters a more successful relationship with major donors than an event with a more formal, business feel.

Community Action decided to transform their annual gala from a formal affair with a keynote speaker focused on corporate giving to a much more socially-focused evening celebrating the impact of their donors and were met with incredible success. People were there to socialize and mingle, and many came with their spouses and partners instead of just with their business associates.

It is common that, in a business formatted event, a vast majority of attendees have their tickets purchased by their company and are seated around the company table, so, in turn, attendees expect their business to write a check at the end of the night. But being there amongst friends and companions, instead of business associates, can make attendees feel more personally responsible for donating and maybe even create a bit of positive peer pressure to be generous with their giving.

This was very clearly reflected in the astounding increase of donations during Community Action’s special appeal.

This social environment appeals more to attendees’ emotions and less to their more logical sides. And appealing to the emotions is an important strategy in getting people to donate. Given too much time and opportunity to rationalize and ponder a donation, a person will quite often decide to give less. You want to create an immediate, emotional reaction in your audience through social interaction, a compelling story, and the desire to gain social approval. You never want to give them too much time to consider and weigh their decisions.

In “Rational Thought Can Override a Generous Intuition,” an article in the March/April 2013 edition of Scientific American Mind, author Michele Solis discusses a recent study of this phenomenon, saying:

“To peer into this aspect of human nature, Rand [David Rand, a psychologist at Harvard University who led this study] and his colleague gave study participants 40 cents, then asked them to decide how much to keep for themselves and how much to donate to a common pool that would later be doubled and split evenly among those who donated. Those who quickly made up their minds donated more than those who took longer, suggesting that quick decisions based on intuition were more generous than slower, deliberate decisions.”

So, keep your fundraising events fun and social, avoiding a more staid, logical business atmosphere in order to encourage your attendees to stick with their initial emotional impulse to donate generously.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Samantha Swaim Honored with the Equity Foundations's 2013 Leadership Award

We were proud to attend the sold-out Equity Foundation Women Who Lead Luncheon, honoring women in the community who blaze the way so that all of the community can flourish.

We were even prouder that our founder, Samantha Swaim, was honored with the Leadership Award at the event. So we wanted to share her introduction and speech from the event. 

She was introduced by her friend and hero, Christopher Acebo, associate artistic director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Christopher Acebo and Samantha Swaim.

Here’s what he had to say:

“What an honor for me to be here today in celebration of these great leaders and what a privilege to introduce my friend Samantha Swaim.

For those of you who know Samantha, you know she is an artful connector of people, a champion for strengthening community and a life force that enables others to find success.  These are qualities that define leadership.

Samantha Swaim Fundraising is a company built on the belief that non-profits are at the center of change in the world and in less than 10 years her company has helped over 70 organizations raise more than $60 million dollars. So, how does that happen?

Well, let me tell you a story. Or actually, let me tell you about storytelling.

Storytelling is a cornerstone of Samantha’s work and was in many ways the catalyst for our friendship—our shared passion for theatre. And it comes down to this simple truth: In hearing someone else’s story we may find unexpected connections that can awaken our capacity for empathy and understanding. And in that moment, when fear or skepticism disappears, we can change the world. It’s what’s at the core of great art and at the core of Sam’s work.

She is about seizing the moment to create opportunity and the key to her success lies in believing this without artifice. 

Sam throws her authentic self into her life and work. Whether it’s the way she interacts with organizations to reimagine their outreach or her own personal journey with friends, community and wellness. 

Let me give you an example of finding opportunity: Sam couldn’t just take on the personal challenge of losing weight and becoming a healthier person. She also had to find a way to make that goal resonate in a wider way.

So her goal for wellness led to cycling, which lead to finding community, which led to philanthropy. And in a few weeks she will ride 545 miles for the third straight year for AIDS Lifecycle with her beloved Team Portland helping to raise thousands of dollars for that organization, as well as, for Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation. She doesn’t just talk the talk. She rides the ride.

And let’s remember, as the old adage says, behind every great woman . . . sometimes is another great woman. And Sam’s capacity for success must be equally measured by the contribution of Kristin Steele — her love and partner of 14 years.

Seizing opportunity when it presents itself. Aligning storytelling with vision. Revealing our shared humanity with our capacity for compassion and tapping into our intrinsic need to help others. These inspirations are at the core of success as defined by Samantha.

I recently came across this quote by John Wesley, which I think speaks deeply of Sam and how she navigates through the world and why she’s being honored as a change agent today:

‘Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.’

Ladies and gentlemen, our Leadership Award winner, Samantha Swaim.”


Samantha then took the stage and offered her insight into leadership and community responsibility:

“This is such an incredible honor to be recognized by all of you. So many of you here are personal heroes. Especially you, Chris. Because, like Equity, the work you do everyday gives people a voice. 

I believe that we create overlap in this world when we start to share stories. We start to see ourselves reflected when we start to walk in other people’s shoes. 

I believe that story creates community. 

Our stories open those little windows where we see injustice, where we learn of a world outside of our own, where a different perspective becomes clear. We open hearts and move mountains every time someone comes out to a family member or a friend. 

It’s a brave act to share your truth. And it’s a life-changing act.

It is the reason why the work of Equity Foundation is so important. I think there is nothing more important than giving people a voice. I am grateful that Equity is here to empower, remove barriers and provide opportunity.  Thank you to Equity, to Karol, to Carl and to the board for this leadership award. 

Leadership, to me, has always been about creating the world we want to be a part of. It has always been about making the lives, hopes and dreams of others as important as my own. It has always been about equity: practicing it, creating it, demanding it and leaving it as a legacy.

When we have a voice, we have the ability to write our own stories. If we see something in the world we don’t like, we can change it. We can stand up and speak out. We can connect to people and find common ground. We can dispel fear and myth. 

And magically, when we have a voice we create community. We create equity.

Being a part of a community that supports me is what gets me going every day. Doing that in return for others is what matters to me every day. I give to the world what I hope to receive. I hope to inspire others to do more than they thought they could.

To speak up more, to give more, to be more.

Because if a young boy in Eastern Oregon is afraid to go to school because he’s gay, we haven’t done enough. If a trans woman is pursuing her career as a medical file clerk instead of her dreams of becoming a doctor because she thinks she needs to be invisible, we haven’t done enough. If an athlete isn’t going pro in order to protect their partner, we haven’t done enough.

Until we can ALL live authentically without fear, we haven’t done enough.

This is why we share our stories. This is why we speak up for injustice. This is why we come out. This is why we share our truth. This is why we support Equity. 

It seems so much better to be a part of a life where we, are a WE. Where the long haul is done TOGETHER. Where we take care of each other. And where we all have a voice to tell our stories.

So thank you. I am humbled and am so honored by this award. I am grateful for all of you who have given me so much. A leader never leads alone. 

And I am only able to accept this award because of what each of you in this room do every day. Especially my partner Kristin, who dares me to dream bigger. To my friends who share their stories to remove stigma, open hearts and remove fear. And to my team Dwight, Debbie and Kristin who have joined forces with me to make this community stronger.

I hope each of you will lead by telling your story. Find your voice. Share your truth. And then go beyond that and support others in finding their voice by supporting the great work of Equity Foundation. 

Because together our voices are too powerful not to be heard.”

Kristy Fleming, Samantha Swaim, and Kristin Steele.

It was an amazing event. Thank you to Equity Foundation for the honor and to all of you for allowing us to be a part of your stories.