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Fundraising…“It’s the Inspiration Business”

Tuesday, 22nd February 2011 at 1:54 pm
Staff Reporter
Opinion | Leading global fundraiser Ken Burnett, a keynote speaker at the FIA’s 34th International Conference in Melbourne this week, gives 7 tips on how to effectively head up a fundraising campaign.

Tuesday, 22nd February 2011
at 1:54 pm
Staff Reporter



Fundraising…“It’s the Inspiration Business”
Tuesday, 22nd February 2011 at 1:54 pm

Leading global fundraiser Ken Burnett, a keynote speaker at the FIA’s 34th International Conference in Melbourne this week, gives 7 tips on how to effectively head up a fundraising campaign.

What I Would Do If I Were the New Head of Donor Development*

If you’re starting out in donor development and want to know what to focus on as priorities, the following short list of 15 points may help you.

1.  I’d aspire to be the most learned fundraiser of my generation.

  • I’d challenge each of them every day to try to get at least one new idea from this.
  • I’d encourage each of my colleagues to set aside half an hour each day (of their own time, preferably) for essential fundraising reading.
  • Or to call a fundraiser for advice, someone they’ve never spoken to before.
  • And once each month at least, I’d encourage them to visit a fundraising organisation with which they’ve had no prior contact whatsoever.

2.  I’d teach all my fundraising colleagues to make the 90-degree shift and to aspire to be 15 minutes ahead.

  • The first attitude, making the 90-degree shift, will involve putting all of us in the department firmly in our donors’ shoes.
  • Imagine – instead of giving donors what we want them to have, when we make the 90-degree shift we can be sure to offer them only what they want to receive!
  • The second attitude, aspiring to be 15 minutes ahead, means I would concentrate not on finding those rare, elusive big breakthrough ideas to advance our fundraising; instead I’d focus on implementing the myriad small but cumulatively significant ideas that are all around fundraisers today, waiting to be picked up.

3. I’d develop a culture of appropriate but high-quality donor service in our organisation, top to bottom.

  • I’d make sure our organisation is always a pleasure to do business with. Tragically, Not for Profits are not very good at customer service and that is an understatement.
  • All fundraisers should perhaps reflect that customer service is like personal hygiene – without it, your relationships won’t even get started.

4. I’d be very choosy.

  • Remember, real donors are rare creatures.
  • A real donor is someone who has shown a propensity to support your cause over time.
  • We’d set out to find the real donors, because we know real profit comes from real relationships with real donors.

5. I’d cut out all short-term thinking, including all hard-sell activities.

  • I’d start by searching out opportunities for mutual benefit.
  • I’d banish all high-pressure activities and make sure that my colleagues and I didn’t sell to our donors; instead we would work with them and for them, as respected counsellors and friends.

6. I’d switch our organisation’s paradigm from marketing to communication.

  • Donors don’t like to be sold to. They never did.
  • I’d make communication with donors a dialogue, not a monologue.
  • Fundraising isn’t about asking for money. It’s about inspiring people to believe they can make a difference – then helping them to make it.
  • So fundraising is the inspiration business, and however much we may try to elevate and complicate it, at its heart it is little more than telling stories.
  • I’d encourage all my fellow fundraisers to become master storytellers.

7. I’d make sure my Not for Profit sends only effective, imaginative communications.

  • Fundraisers are prolific producers of printed and electronic communications, but the bulk of them are tedious, vacuous, or fit only for the trash can – sometimes all three.
  • Communication is a bit like kissing. It takes two to do it properly.

*From Ken Burnett’s “The Zen of Fundraising: 89 Timeless Ideas to Strengthen and Develop Your Donor Relationships”, The White Lion Press, 2006, pp7-16

Ken Burnett is a UK-based author, lecturer and consultant on fundraising, marketing and communications for Not for Profit organisations worldwide. In 2010, together with Alan Clayton, Mr Burnett set up the coaching, consulting and creativity London company Clayton Burnett.

FIA International Conference registrations are still open at the FIA desk in the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre. For more information, please call the FIA office on 1300 889 670.


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