Disce aut Discede: learn or leave!

The Latin phrase "Disce aut Discede" is used as the motto of many institutions and schools. It means "Learn or Leave". It's time we adopt this mindset in our sector as well.

There is plenty of best practice available in the sector, as you will see when The Commission on the Donor Experience presents her findings. But to be honest: there is more bad practice happening around us. More then we'd like to see.

We often praise our direct response sector as measurable. And if we compare our work with our colleagues from the Communication department we're always saying that Fundraising has the benefit of being (much more) measurable. We always stress the fact in fundraising we can test everything. Many fundraising programs around the world are build on split runs, A/B tests and control mail packs. So, we're testing and measuring. But are we testing and measuring the right things? Can we answer all the right questions?

Ghana, SOS Children's Villages (SOS Kinderdorpen)

Ghana, SOS Children's Villages (SOS Kinderdorpen)

Often not. Where most fundraisers are still testing direct response in our sector, we should also measure the indirect response. Every interaction we have with our donors contributes to the relation we have with our donors. And we should measure this relationship and underlying drivers. Old school direct response fundraising is still heavily important, but the future on fundraising is a focus on the indirect response. What happens on the long term. What happens with the relationship. Are donors staying with you?

We should change testing and measuring from short term to long term metrics: the donor experience, donor satisfaction commitment and trust, retention rates and lifetime value to name the usual suspects.

Disce aut Discede... it should also be our motto as fundraising sector. We should learn more. Fundraisers should learn from their own and other experiences. Or they should leave. YOU obviously read a blog from time to time, so I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but how many of your fundraising colleagues never read anything, or go anywhere to refresh their thinking?

To all fundraisers who are not learning from experience, who can't develop themselves and their fundraising program: please leave the sector. If you can't make that decision for yourself, have your manager make it for you. We'll all be better off if you just go. Seriously. I know it sounds harsh, but the needs and problems in the world that we're trying to solve are much bigger than your desire to work in the non-profit sector.

To all directors, managers and leaders: if you want to leap-frog into the future of fundraising you'll need the resources and brains to make that happen. Ask yourself if that's the case. If not, do something about it. Learn or leave.

(By the way: Disce aut Discede is also the subtitle of a new (Dutch) initiative that I'll launch in the near future...)