Memories of a Reformed Fundraiser

As I prepare to speak at tomorrow’s Pecha Kucha Night (PKN) event here in Edmonton, I can’t help but reflect on my first Pecha Kucha talk 3 years ago.

I was working for a charity at the time, and my speech was about homelessness and the work of my organization to address it.

There was a lot of negative reaction on the web. My talk, it seemed, had struck many people as being too self-promotional; too much about the charity and not enough about the issue. They felt I had taken unfair advantage of the forum to push my fundraising agenda.

Several months later, the next PKN had a lot more self-promotion than had ever been seen before. I’m sad to say that I may have inspired some of this. Soon after, new rules were introduced by the PKN organizers. From that point on, it was imperative that the talks be about ideas, and not overtly try to drum up support, or money, or customers.

When I did that first speech, I thought I was doing good – I was following the usual practices of my organization and of charities everywhere. My intentions were pure, but it didn’t matter.

The haters were right. I had taken something that was supposed to be about meaningful content and made it all about my organization. People wanted to hear about the issue, and about the work underway to address it. They did not want to hear about how great my organization was, or how our particular operational model was the bomb.

Looking back, I see that talk as a turning point in my outlook on how charities seek support. I now completely sympathize with those who felt that my approach was self-centered and innappropriate. Charity is not about charities – it’s about the change we all want to bring about.

Tomorrow night’s talk will be different. I promise not to say a word about myself. And I look forward to the reviews – good or bad!


  1. Mack D. Male June 5, 2012 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    Interesting post Nadine, thanks for sharing! I just went back and read what I wrote about PKN5:

    I am relieved to see that I didn’t question your intentions! It’s amazing how much of a difference a shift in approach can make, isn’t it? I knew at the time that you were trying to get across the good that United Way does, but like many others I was stuck on the fact that your talk seemed to be focused on the organization instead of its work. I’d love to hear the same talk delivered in a different way now that we both have better perspective!

    I’m also glad that I have since had the opportunity to get to know you. I look forward to your talk tomorrow night!

    PS. No amount of perspective could have saved PKN6 lol!

    • nriopel June 6, 2012 at 10:12 am - Reply

      Thank you, Mack – I think this is one of those examples of things happening for a reason. Your reaction, although unpleasant to hear at the time, ended up being really good for me. Also, it helped lead me into knowing you and Sharon better, which makes me very lucky indeed!

  2. […] was up next to talk about the charitable sector. As promised, it was very different than her last PKN talk. In fact, I think it was my favorite presentation of […]

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