With the world continuing to spiral into an unequal, unstable and unsustainable place, fundraisers have a new important role to play in ensuring that the positive forces of the world trump the negative ones, said former president Bill Clinton to fundraising professionals.
Speaking during the closing general session at the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) conference in Chicago, Clinton advocated that with an investment in new technologies and by approaching challenges from a unique viewpoint, nonprofits can solve problems that the government and private sector could not normally address.
“Two things won’t ever change,” said Clinton. “There will always be emergencies the compel us to ask for money and there will always be a gap between what the private sector can produce and what the public sector can provide.”
Exciting advancements in science has given us a preview of what we are to expect coming in the future, said Clinton. A computer will be developed by 2025 that will have the knowledge capacity to trump the entire population of the world. Space exploration has also advanced with The Kepler Project believing they have identified a planet within the constellation Libra that might support life.
“It is an exciting time to be alive,” Clinton continued, “but, if we don’t do something positive with these developing technologies, they will empower destruction, which will rob our children of a bright future.”
Clinton understands the difficulties in fundraising as the Clinton Global Initiative based in New York, N.Y., continues to grow in size and scope. “It’s hard to spend your life asking people for money isn’t it?,” Clinton asked rhetorically, making reference to a politician’s life for funding the next election cycle.
But according to Clinton, nonprofits are in a unique situation for solving this “how” question on solving some of the world’s problems. “I think technology has allowed donors more transparency then ever before in letting them know where their money is going in sustaining this effort,” Clinton said. “I think nonprofit organizations are so important because we can play a unique role in being creative in building institutions for the future. Unlike businesses we don’t have to turn a profit and be afraid of failure.”
Addressing climate change, Clinton said that were a variety of measures and practice that not only would make the United States a greener place, but can enable efficiency by creating more jobs that is relatively inexpensive. A place like Germany that uses half the oil as we do and where the sun shines just as much as London was able to net 300,000 jobs from a solar push that leapfrogged them into the next century.
“This no where near our capacity,” said Clinton. “If we were to incorporate a program like this in the United States, we would have 4 million new jobs.”
During a brief Q&A session following his speech, Clinton was asked what fundraisers could do to make the greatest change in their field. He offered two suggestions. One, that if you feel a cause you’re working for is important, make sure that is on a sustainable path, and to look for opportunities to raise money that will change the world.
Clinton also spoke about the proposed budget slashing of National Public Radio (NPR). He said that a diminishing of NPR’s scope might not have an effect on the large markets on either coasts but could prove disastrous for small communities across the nation reliant on the information NPR provides.
“There are vast stretches of America that does not have local programming. You might have a local station because of a radio tower but it is not the same as something federally funded. We will be able to keep the coasts afloat, but how about the stations in Iowa giving local crop and weather reports?”
Answering this question of “how” thought was the important to Clinton. Nonprofits are able to solve this “how” question by being able to try different solutions while being creative in their application.
“In the long run, solving the ‘how’ question is the most important of all. The world needs you and the people you represent. The 21st century is too complicated to get to solve problems by the private sector and the government alone. There has never been more opportunity. The roadblocks are substantial but we can make them a lot smaller.”