Confessions of a fundraiser

Five years ago I started this blog. I began it for a reason. I knew fundraising needed to change and so I thought it would be interesting to record my thoughts as I tried a new approach to fundraising I believed in.

At the time I was a shattered fundraiser despite 20 years of experience. Heading a large fundraising team I had tried, and failed, to shift the direction towards a different way to fundraise. At the time I was dealing with the symptoms – falling response rates and rising costs. I could see that the current way of ‘targeting’ donors to maximise income was starting to creak. Yet I didn’t know the root cause in the way I do now.

So I woke up one day realising I no longer enjoyed fundraising. I was losing sleep. I could feel the stress. I was exhausted. That morning I wrote my letter of resignation and did what you are not meant to do – handed my notice in and then started looking for a job – one where I could rebuild my confidence. Three months (and a week) on I secured a job as a fundraiser at a small but enterprising charity called SolarAid. It was just what I was looking for, a place to try a different approach.

And that’s when I started this blog. Over the past five years I’ve logged my learning and insights as I’ve gone. Sometimes I even reread the blogs fascinated to hear what I had to say!

Here are the reasons I wrote five years ago for starting the blog : Why ifundraiser? and why I chose the categories I choose to write about that I felt would be important going forward : Engagement, Story telling, Innovation, Learning and of course Fundraising.

Five years on and fundraising has woken up that things need to change. So this blog has become a bit of resource.

Top five posts

So I thought it would help to provide a bit of a guide to my past blogs, especially if you have just signed up to receive them. They are just as relevant today, if not more.

If you are short of time then here are the top blog posts – one for each year I have done on this site:

  1. Do you have a BHAG?
  2. The art of saying thank you
  3. A manifesto for fundraising
  4. Welcome to the party – How to apply the New Rules of Fundraising
  5. The solution is simple – why fundraisers need to get a grip

When you have a bit more time check out the some of the blogs below. The guided tour below is structured around how I think the new approach to fundraising works and what we now need to do. Alternatively click on a word cloud on my blog page and see what comes up or use the list along the menu bar.

Blog of blogs

whySo here is my blog of blogs. First you need to understand why things need to change and get in the right mindset (see number 4 and 5 above). Here are some other posts that try and explain my evolving thinking:

And in trying a new approach be ready to embrace failure and use it to make progress or learn from my experience :  Fail – Learn – Leap

… And prime your mind to be ready to take on new ideas

Are you really thinking (it’s a bit of fun but makes an important and startling point!)

What does yours feel like? (how to listen to your instinct and turn up intuition).

Slide8Second its about your story – the problem you are trying to solve. Do you use your story to engage supporters? One that your supporters will spread. Do you know the key elements of a great story? Your story could be set around a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) – one of the most powerful management tools I have ever come across. So you’ll find I talk about BHAG’s alot:

And failure can be a great story tooall gripping movies have it.
Of course you will need to be a great story teller too:

And you need to empower ALL your staff to tell their story too.




The chap from Wagamama is offering free tasters and has a queue. The street fundraiser is having less interest

The chap from Wagamama is offering free tasters and has a queue. The street fundraiser is having less interest

Next its now about engagement as my observation on the streets of Islington reminded me (see picture right). Do you invite supporters to help solve your problems? Have you pinned down why you do what you do to really engage people? How do you equip your supporters to spread your story for you? Are you being relevant? How do you involve supporters so they are part of the experience? Are you giving something of value back? This includes great supporter care using thank you as a opportunity to stand out and say “you matter” – something we all want to feel rather than running on empty after having made a donation. And why saying thank you really well is worth the trouble from a purely strategic perspective.

Not forgetting the extraordinary added value that fundraising can bring my daughter reminded me of.

And by by inspiring donors the money will come …

… so they raise donations for you and attract new donors for you too!

Whilst don’t forget to listen to them or even be open for a chat.

And open your mind to the possibilities of attracting younger audiences with a new approach.

Finally its about seeing, as a fundraiser, how everything joins upholistic fundraising or total fundraising and fundraising which is sticky. Which, as I learned, may mean a different way to progress your fundraising career – rather than be a manager let experienced fundraisers, er, fundraise! Or it could mean thinking differently about even the most basic of fundraising propositions and use impact rather than activities or outputs. Or being brave enough to ask the right question. And being ready to respond when the opportunities start coming your way as your story spreads.

My gardenTo help you step back and think (thinking is so important) have you tried a different metaphor for fundraising from the usual military terminology of ‘targeting’ and ‘tactics’? Try gardening – it works for me.



So I’ll continue to share my thinking and learning as I go. Thanks for reading it.

{apologies if you got this blog before I completed it}

One thought on “Confessions of a fundraiser

  1. Pingback: Understand Why | ifundraiser

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