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UK expert calls for a new age of responsible fundraising


2 March 2020 at 4:06 pm
Luke Michael
Ken Burnett wants to change the prevailing way that fundraising is looked at in most organisations


Luke Michael | 2 March 2020 at 4:06 pm


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UK expert calls for a new age of responsible fundraising
2 March 2020 at 4:06 pm

Ken Burnett wants to change the prevailing way that fundraising is looked at in most organisations

Australian fundraisers need to shift their focus and utilise the power of storytelling to ensure they are delivering a brilliant donor experience, a UK expert believes.

Ken Burnett, a leading fundraising strategist who has written several books on donor development and communication, said fundraisers were not in the persuasion business but rather the inspiration business.

Speaking last week at the Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) conference in Brisbane, Burnett said he wanted to shift the prevailing fundraising paradigm, which was very target-driven and often involved just asking people for more money.

Instead, he urged fundraisers to use storytelling and take a more relationship-based approach, focused on delivering a great donor experience.

He told Pro Bono News that if giving is a good experience, donors will do more of it and if it isn’t, they’ll soon stop.   

“Focus not on the money people send you but rather on the needs, dreams and desires of the people who send it,” Burnett said.

“Give donors choices, avoid marketing terminology and other inappropriate language and learn to be famous for frequent, fast, fabulous feedback.”

This is all part of what Burnett calls the new age of responsible fundraising, which he believes will be much more popular with donors and therefore will raise more money.

Burnett also spoke at the conference about the issues afflicting fundraising in the UK. The sector has faced major media scrutiny and public backlash in recent years following several scandals.

There was the case of 92-year-old poppy seller Olive Cooke, who took her own life in 2015 after feeling “distressed and overwhelmed” from receiving almost 3,000 charity requests for donations a year.

This was followed by the Oxfam scandal in 2018, when it emerged that Oxfam staff members, who were deployed in Haiti to provide aid, paid earthquake survivors for sex.

Burnett said fundraisers in Australia needed to understand, and be prepared for, a similar scandal happening here.                                  

“If it does, our profession must respond quickly, put its collective hands up where things have gone wrong and give a robust public defence of fundraising, plus a clear plan to put things right,” he said.

“If they practice the donor-based approach as defined by the Commission on the Donor Experience then Aussie fundraisers won’t need to worry and they’ll raise more money and keep donors longer too.”

Burnett said he was bullish about the future of fundraising in Australia, believing the sector to be in good hands.                                  

He said Australia had a strong tradition of great relationship fundraisers, with figures such as Peter Dalton, Kathy John, Leo Orland and Sean Triner.

“I suggest you listen to them, follow their wisdom, learn and adopt the basic fundamentals of fundraising and then instil those fundamentals rigorously into your eager young fundraisers,” he said.

“All will be well, as long as you don’t take your eye off the ball, and you make the donor-based approach real and consistent day in, day out and not just something that fundraisers talk about at conferences.”


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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