Fundraising, a job between magic and management

Marco Crescenzi| 18 December 2015

Do fundraisers need to be magicians or managers? I had always believed in the second until I met “Cliff the Magician” and I’ve changed my mind. Fundraising needs magic!

If you still don’t know it, a fundraiser is a Non Profit professional responsible for fundraising activities, partnerships, relations with businesses and foundations as well as for the so-called “funding strategies”. A complex (and extraordinary) profile which is tailored for: people who had always worked in the For Profit Sector, mainly in the communication, marketing and general management fields, students in Economics and Human Sciences, but also cultured people skilled at creative writing and able to communicate well.

Cliff now reveals that “No matter where you come from, fundraising needs magicians”. He showed his point of view during the 15° Conference of the Fundraisers Spanish Association in Madrid. One hour and a half full of surprises but after all… he is a magician, isn’t he? Also his story is magical and similar to many other people leaving the For Profit for the Non Profit Sector… with excellent results.

In the UK, Cliff was a professional and successful magician but he used to feel like he was missing something. Despite loving his job and his three children, he was looking for something more. He tried to offer his services to some rest homes: “He is crazy” people started thinking. After good and bad experiences, finally the certainty of his life appeared: Abracadabra, la Fondazione dei Maghi Solidali.

Like the magicians fighting against evil for good, the Magicians of Abracadabra work with children in hospitals. With patients in very serious conditions, laughter are the real magic: everything can happen, and there is hope again. The young patients are the magicians’ special assistants.

I must confess: at the beginning my manager – time oriented side was quite skeptical: “Am I here to see a street illusionist and waste two precious hours of my busy life?” Later on, I was astonished. Something had changed and I had finally understood what Cliff was trying to say: “Magic and astonishment can change the world, not cynicism and numbers”. The photo of a little boy has made Europe changed its mind about refugees, not the wave of statistics breaking dramatically on our souls.

I thought about some of my colleagues and friends like Gianpaolo Montini, Peter Pan Association Manager, and his great knowledge of the sector – graduated at Naval Engineering with a thesis on aerospace propulsion and former Telecom Italia manager. He is enthousiastic with his job and he’s a real “engine” of the organisation where I work. You cannot be uninfected by his astonishment when he talks about any developments with his “Case di Peter Pan”. These structures host families with children that are being oncologically treated for a long period. “We have collected xx million euros” is another enthousiastic sentence he usually says with human and professional simplicity; money is only the means, children are what really counts.

I also thought about Maria Carla Cardelli, graduated in Economics and Statistics and former responsible for fundraising at Médecins Sans Frontières in Italy, Libera Foundation, and Ospedale Bambino Gesù. Now she’s involved in training ‘new generations’ and for years she has been telling the students in our Master in Fundraising“When you work for a Non Profit organisation as professional fundraisers, you will be considered as magicians and fairies that will get a lot of money using their magic wand!”

That’s why Maria Carla has been nicknamed the “Turquoise Fairy” (not only for her blond hair and her big, blue eyes!). So Carla, put up with it! Fundraisers need to be magicians and turn future premonitions into statistics and strategies, good intentions into donations, disaffection into participation and Muggles into Wizards. In the meantime, Carla, keep on teaching fundraising! – also magicians go to school… see Harry Potter!

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