Fundraising & the middle-class in Romania (2)

Ștefan Lipan

The majority of people I have spoken and worked with from the NGO sector identified themselves as being middle-class. They used the same discourse of democracy, rights, legality and personal responsibility as the Romanian 2017 protesters described by Deoanca in his piece on the middle-class aspirations for moral governance and virtuous citizenship (Deoanca, 2017).

However, besides the above mentioned tropes, another one kept showing up in their discourse. This was the usage of emotions like compassion, sincerity, warmth, friendliness. As one of the fundraising experts I encountered mentioned in his speech addressed to future fundraisers: “Communication with the donors is the key ingredient. Several things are of utmost importance here: not to be boring, avoidance of jargon, frequent meetings, a warm, friendly tone, passion, deliver the sentiment of utility, and most importantly: Emotion! Emotion should always be present!”

Among the principles of fundraising mentioned by yet another I-have-raised-impressive-amounts-of-money fundraiser (sorry for my ironic tone but, funny enough, many of whom I’ve met took every occasion they had to remind people of how successful they were in raising funds) were: “people give in order to receive something in return, raising funds is a transaction, we sell, common sense (bun simt), truth, trust, integrity, transparency, and last but the most important: empathy!”

Returning to the above mentioned study on the Romanian philanthropic behaviour, we find here a list of the main reasons for which the persons interviewed donated to an NGO. Among them we find ideas similar with the ones from my interviews with people who identified themselves as being middle-class: because they have the resources (18,3%), they are contributing to a change (11,7%), I trust the organization (5,4%). But the first reason that 23,3% of the persons questioned answered was pity. This would be the religious equivalent of compassion.

Another important aspect in the “donor hunting” business (as one of the fundraisers named it) is the beautification of it. It has to look nice, it has to feel good, it has to be pleasing. This idea was present not only in the huge fundraising events like the Hope Concert1 organized by the Hope and Homes for Children Foundation each year, but also in the tiniest of details. As one of the leading fundraisers told us in a training session with the organization I was working with: “I think that what will help us very much with the fundraising would be an infographic. That means to explain through images, on a single page, why do you need the money for. Whether you put children, young people, how many hours, how many volunteers you should put them in a nice, beautiful way in a graphic form. This is because when you send an email from a recommendation: Hi, look at who we are! You send them a powerpoint with 5 slides, the infographic, and the sponsorship contract as a draft. These are the instruments that we use and work with…because nobody has the the time to read them, trust me. You can send them whatever document you might think is relevant…they will not read it. But a nice, beautiful infographic, because it is a visual communication and we are bombarded with this type of communication every day, it helps us very much. This should be the essence. This will be opened first, and if you put the whole project nicely in one page, he will understand from one look why you need 10000 Euros. The powerpoint presentation should be a bit more detailed, with some nice photos but the main tool is the infographic. It has been used by many other companies and it is very useful.”

So we see that aspects of aesthetics are clearly taken into consideration at many levels of the process of raising funds for the institutionalized children. Moreover, the aesthetics are linked with moral aspects through the importance given to moral sentiments like compassion.

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