25 March 2021
Eric Henrotte has been the coordinator Communication & Fundraising at VIA Don Bosco for two years. VIA Don Bosco is a recognised Belgian NGO that supports schools and employment programs for vulnerable young people in Africa and Latin America.
Before Eric started his job at VIA Don Bosco he worked for over 28 years at the Belgian chemical group Solvay (holding positions in sales, marketing and business intelligence) . Eric’s biggest motivation for switching to the job at VIA Don Bosco is the impact his work has on disadvantaged young people and their families in Africa and Latin America. “I have been lucky enough to visit our partners in Benin and Madagascar (pre-Covid!) and I have seen what we are helping to achieve: supporting and strengthening technical and vocational schools really enables young people to develop their talents and play an active role in their communities. This really gives me a sense of satisfaction and motivates me to keep learning (and improving the fundraising results for VIA Don Bosco)”, Eric explains.
What gives Eric satisfaction are the messages he receives from donors and supporters. “Fortunately, they are mostly messages of encouragement, but people also raise interesting questions (about the costs of our actions, our impact on the ground, etc.). This is very important to us as it gives very valuable feedback not only on how people view our actions but also on what motivates them to support VIA Don Bosco. I admire all these individuals, donors and volunteers, as well as the different funders (companies, foundations,…) who enable us to implement our programmes. I would like to thank them all individually, listen to what they have to say and exchange with them. But it is not possible. I have however decided to free up some time in my agenda so I can directly interact with (potential) donors. I have also encouraged my colleagues at FunCom (fundraising & communication) to do the same."
In a small organisation operational tasks often take up too much time
“So much to do, so little time” is one of the obstacles named by Eric to do his fundraising job. “We are a small organisation with limited resources. We are trying to adapt our practices along the different steps of the donor journey but find it difficult to implement. Operational tasks often take up too much of our energy, I find: I struggle to free up the time I need to thoroughly analyse our results and run tests.”
“We are fortunate at VIA Don Bosco to have loyal supporters. We raise a good part of our funding through them, mainly through letters of appeal for donations. However, I would like to diversify our funding sources and techniques and, a.o., develop stronger ties with companies and foundations”
“As VIA Don Bosco works with schools, both in our partner countries and in Belgium, our projects have of course been strongly impacted by school closures and distance learning, enforced due to the COVID pandemic. But our partners on the ground are resilient and have continued to work: delays in our ongoing programs seem limited at this stage. As far as fundraising is concerned, our actions and results have not been affected much, fortunately.”
Getting to know colleague-fundraisers
“If I was to give some advice to colleague-fundraisers, it would be to make sure you maintain a balance between your private life and work. The job of a fundraiser is very busy: between all the tasks and actions we organise and the life of our organisations/NGOs, it is easy to get carried away by the current.”
“For me, it’s is very important to have a look at how other NGO’s and organisations handle their fundraising. I found the FAB webinar in which Mindwize explained the results of their 'mystery donor' study on how NGOs handle first donations and appeals and requests for legacy information, very interesting. It was like holding a mirror up to our faces. It made us rethink the way we interact with our (potential) donors. The training courses organised by FAB are very interesting, too: my colleagues and I have already followed several of them. Apart from the 'theoretical’ content, they also give us the chance to get in touch with colleagues and exchange experiences and (good) practices. The job of a fundraiser is a bit lonely: this kind of exchange (and the simple fact of getting together with fellow fundraisers) is important to me.”
VIA Don Bosco is a recognised Belgian NGO that supports schools and employment initiatives for young people in Africa and Latin America. We wholeheartedly agree with Nelson Mandela who once said 'Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world'.