Fundraising Consultant at Thuynsma & Associates

Peter Thuynsma began a parallel career in fundraising in 1976 in Denver, Colorado (USA) for that State’s largest Catholic parish. In Johannesburg he managed the Centre for Black Education and Research, and the Institute for Human Rights Education and was listed on the UN HRC’s Roster of Experts in Human Rights Education. Has also been a consultant to several local NGOs and SADC universities. For the past five years he has helped develop the fundraising function at the University of Pretoria on a grant from the Kresge Foundation.

Formerly Professor of African Literature and later Special Advisor to the Vice Chancellor at Wits University, he has published widely and guest lectured at a number of local and international universities including Rutgers, Harvard, and SUNY (Binghamton). He is the managing partner of Thuynsma & Associates – a fundraising consultancy focusing on engineering sustainability.

Five Questions

1. How did you come to work in the field of Advancement?

By pure accident! I was asked by our Parish to design and secure funding for one of their senior citizen programmes. They sponsored my first proposal writing class – that was in 1976!

Fundraising then became a parallel endeavour alongside my academic career. It remained a concurrent, part-time interest for far too long!

2. What motivates your work in this sector?

The sheer thrill of a receiving a gift that has been deliberately cultivated – and the prospect of developing a donor’s long-term interest in one’s work.

3. What are the unique challenges and opportunities faced by Advancement practitioners in the African context?

Advancement is too narrowly understood as simply fundraising. We don’t always remember that we are advancing a larger purpose and a specific cause. Too often we loose sight of the discipline required in campaigning and we especially tend to discount what we do as belonging to philanthropy.

My pet peeve is that too few institutions pay enough attention to stewardship.

4. What is one thing you wish you had known when you began working in Advancement?

Like many novitiate fundraisers, my early efforts focused on merely landing the gift – at the expense of learning new inter-personal techniques and not cultivating long-term donor relationships. The end-gain was all-important, instead of the end-game! I often side-stepped the various stages needed to secure a donation and hardly applied any courtesy beyond writing thank you notes and reports!

Advancement practitioners must respect the phases involved in developing funds: programme planning for funding, prospecting for the appropriate donors, developing compelling solicitation documents, cultivation strategies, and especially, have a deliberate stewardship plan to secure a relationship that will lead to additional gifts.

Discipline is imperative!

5. What are three words to describe a successful Advancement practitioner?

Let’s make the three words into active qualities, rather

Be accountable,

Be resilient, and

Make stewardship your ethic

Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality. ~ Alfred Painter