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What Donors Want – Episode #9: Segal Family Foundation

What Donors Want – Episode #9: Segal Family Foundation

Fundraisers, the next episode of What Donors Want is out, featuring our second live recording with the Segal Family Foundation.

For those who haven’t listened yet, What Donors Want is a podcast by I.G. Advisors, which offers a fresh, dynamic (and slightly irreverent) view into major gifts fundraising from the donor’s perspective. Each episode, we interview a different kind of donor and get right down to it: what do they actually want from the fundraisers who cultivate them. All of this and more – straight from the donor’s mouth.

Our past episodes feature a wide range of guests – from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Comic Relief and global law firm, DLA Piper. And now our ninth episode deep dives into the philanthropic philosophy of one of the most generous and influential international development funders, the Segal Family Foundation. Based between the US and East Africa, they believe in a world where development is steered by grassroots leaders and power is shifted into the hands of communities; their mission is to change the power dynamics inherent in traditional philanthropy and prove that a new, more equitable and responsive approach is not only more fair – but also more effective.

We were thrilled to host our second live-recording of What Donors Want at the Hospital Club in Covent Garden, and had the honour of interviewing Segal’s brilliant Executive Director, Andy Bryant. The room was packed with fundraisers and organisations of all sorts, and Andy shared several invaluable insights.

The unique characteristics of family foundations

Andy Bryant quotation from podcast

Funders are all different


With Andy, we explored the unique characteristics of family foundations and what advice he has for fundraisers cultivating them. Andy’s answer was deeply insightful and creative; he shared several examples of different ‘donor dichotomies’ fundraisers might encounter – such as the ‘KPI donor’ vs. the ‘human-centred stories donor’, or the ‘donor who prefers to speak with the main thought leader’ vs. the ‘donor who wants to speak with the driver’. He explained how approaches for each of these donor profiles can be structured behind the scenes into a decision tree to make fundraising more efficient, while also emphasising that each donor “is materially different in their processes [and] taste;” while it may feel tedious, researching your unique approach is never a waste of time.


The importance of follow-up

Any Bryant quotation on common mistakes

Saying thank you really matters


When asked about common mistakes, Andy emphasised that, while the last thing the Foundation wants to do is become burdensome, a common mistake they see from partners is a lack of momentum and follow up after a grant has been committed. While proper stewardship does take effort and resource, continuing to invest in the relationship after a gift has been made is critical to long-term fundraising success and financial health. It doesn’t have to be incredibly burdensome if you systematise follow ups behind the scenes – and a proper ‘thank you’ goes a long way.

As a Foundation that supports 200+ organisations working in 20+ countries in Sub-Saharan Africa – Segal has a unique birds-eye-view of the social impact space across this region and is paving the way with a philanthropic philosophy grounded in integrity and justice. Andy spoke at great length about the power dynamics inherent in traditional philanthropy and the Foundation’s mission to challenge these (we are big fans of his soap box speech at 25:00) – I think it’s safe to say the whole room left feeling inspired.

From going through their own grant application process to ensure it’s not too onerous; to convening their grantees, asking them for direct feedback and then actually incorporating it (for example, increasing multi-year funding) – Segal’s humble approach is something every funder can learn from. And what does this mean for the organisations that want to partner with them? Well, you’ll have to listen to find out.

You can hear the entire conversation between me, I.G.’s Carlos Miranda, and Andy by subscribing to What Donors Want on iTunes. And stay tuned for our last episode of 2018 coming to your headphones shortly.


Past episodes

What Donors Want (episode one) Alfonsina Penaloza, The Hewlett Foundation

What Donors Want (episode two): Lynne and Peter Smitham, The Kiawah Trust

What Donors Want (episode three): Adam Askew, Comic Relief

What Donors Want (episode four): Nick Jenkins of Dragons Den

What Donors Want (episode five): The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

What Donors Want (episode six): DLA Piper


Rachel Stephenson Sheff is a Philanthropy & Fundraising Advisor. Based in London, she is the producer and host of What Donors Want in partnership with I.G. Advisors. Get in touch if you want learn more.

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