An interview with Seth Godin: His fundraising ideas and AFPFC

I missed AFPFC this year but read all of the “post-conference coverage” (otherwise known as the fundraising blogs and twitter feeds). It sounded amazing and inspiring. Not that I’m surprised. This year the conference boasted an impressive list of people presenting fundraising ideas, including some of the best fundraising consultants in the world and A-list celebrities.

I wanted to see all the speakers but especially wanted to see one of my marketing idols, Seth Godin, who was a keynote speaker at the event. I have been following Seth’s blog for a while and I can undoubtedly say that his insights have helped me grow as a marketer. Seth has some interesting opinions on fundraising and has written some thought-provoking posts. Plus, the more I read about his speech, the more interested I became in his fundraising ideas.

So I took a shot in the dark and reached out to him (not expecting a response). Two days later, I was able to interview one of my idols.

 I asked him a variety of questions, some about AFPFC and some about my favourite Ted Talk/blog posts that he has produced. Read the interview below:



1. Your talk at AFP has been really well received by the non-profit community (congratulations)! Your speech talked a lot about challenging the status quo and embracing failure. Why do you think it’s so important for non-profits to do that?

If we knew how to solve the problems that non-profits seek to solve, we’d already have solved them, right?

So, the only useful approach is innovation. And innovation is failing until you find something that works.

We reserve a special status and respect for non-profits. In exchange, they need to have the guts to fail, to fail openly and to fail often.


2. What was the best takeaway from the conference?

How caring and dedicated this industry is. It’s not just a job.


3.  I have to ask you about one of your older posts on philanthropy, Gala Economics. I thought it was a pretty interesting read and wanted to ask which tactic/s you recommend in place of a gala?

Oh, that’s easy.

The gala exists to entertain the people who put it on, not to maximize donations or involvement.

Tribes that matter don’t have galas. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi didn’t have galas.

Build a tribe. Do it person by person. Create open and eager channels of communication, not annual drives.

Do the hard, long-term work of mattering.


4. I watched (and loved) your Ted Talk called “The Tribes We Lead.” I think that while non-profits are perfectly positioned to “create a movement”, they often have trouble doing so. Where do you think non-profits go wrong?

Too often, we seek to bureaucratize, industrialize and routinize our work. But in this case, we need to do precisely the opposite.


5. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wanted to revamp his or her organization’s fundraising ideas/efforts?

It comes down to just one question. As a fundraiser, would the people you call on miss you if you were gone?

If not, do something radically different.


I want to say a big thank you to Seth Godin for contributing to this article.

Check out his website here.

Don’t forget to grab a copy of his latest book here.

Did you see Seth Godin speak at AFPFC? What did you think of his fundraising ideas?


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Image Cred: Image 2, Krissy Venosdale