Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

IFC 2017 Diary: A New Conversation


Charlotte Melbourne


Author: Charlotte Francis


IFC 2017 kicked off with a high-energy plenary with activist and rapper Ahmen setting the tone with his status quo-challenging lyrics. Next up was Jeremy Heimans, co-founder and CEO of Purpose, who talked about the shift from old leader-driven power to new, peer-driven, participatory power, a theme that was explored throughout the conference through new paradigms, new platforms and new possibilities.

Jack Exley and Kenneth Pennington worked on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign and introduced us to the world of progressive movements in the US where people are taking back power in a post-Trump World. Instancing groups such as Justice Democrats (democrats representing people not corporations), Indivisible (a progressive grassroots network of local groups) and Swing Left, the commonality among all these groups is that they are not operating to Old World models with paid fundraisers and a database, they are mobilising change through social media and fundraising platforms. And they all have a credible and strong Theory of Change such as the American Civil Liberties Union, who raised $24 million online in one weekend to successfully fight Trump’s travel ban on Muslim immigrants.

A panel including Kay Sprinkel Grace and Jon Duschinsky challenged us to reflect on what it means to be a change-maker in our fast-paced, changing world. Presenting some scary stats – human knowledge doubles every 12 hours, for example – this session looked at some of the emerging trends from opinion mining – the ability to analyse at scale what your donors are sharing and saying about your organisation on social media – to voice-activated devices such as Google’s Alexa with in-built donor platforms.

A session on de-mystifying innovative finance looked at new products such as the International Committee of the Red Cross’s world first Humanitarian Impact Bond, new users and new investors. Key areas attracting new finance are those with good outcome metrics (no surprises there) such as health, micro-finance, renewable energy and the environment. But the shift from ‘strategic fundraising’ to ‘strategic financing’ requires accompanying change management processes to ensure whole-of-organisation understanding and execution. And, like setting up a grants program, these new approaches require time and a long-term view.

Wearing my Perpetual IMPACT hat (the round opens Monday 30th October in 2017), my ears pricked up in a session looking at whether organisations are using the right metrics to measure success.  Taking donors as an example, are you looking at just gross income and donor numbers or are you factoring in the acquisition and stewardship costs to arrive at a net income return per donor?

 Reinforcing the call to action to us as fundraisers and agents of change, the closing plenary ended with Nigerian-born activist Bisi Alimi’s moving and inspiring story. Beaten up for coming out as gay on breakfast TV in Nigeria, he fled to the UK in 2007 and turned his life around. In 2015 Alimi challenged the perceptions of immigrants in South Thanet, Kent, and manned an anti-Farage (then leader of UKIP) stall. He stood with a placard saying: “I’m an immigrant – hug me or ask a question?” He has also set up a Foundation to accelerate social acceptance of LGBT in Nigeria, where it is still criminalised.


This is a mere snapshot of some of the fabulously thought-provoking and wide-ranging topics presented by international speakers with more than 1000 people participating from more than 55 countries. From masterclasses to break-out sessions, spontaneous conversations in the corridors or over dinner, not to mention disco glamour and frivolity – IFC offers a great opportunity to learn new skills, expand your knowledge, connect with some of the most committed change makers on the planet – be inspired and have fun.

IFC 2018 will take place from 16-19 October …

Which leads us to this amazing announcement: pre-registration for #IFC2018 has already opened, so you need only go here to register your interest and get on the mailing list for the latest news. Sign up by 5th November to receive an additional discount for IFC 2018!