Fundraising is bad for your image

Published by Hanneke Warrink on

It all started so enthousiastic. Our management wrote us an assignement that said:

Go out there and explore our possibillities to raise single payments for cordaid Mensen in Nood from new groups of donors through the internet. Be innovative and different. It’s a pilotproject, so be aware of the learning aspect!

Streetview Southern Sudan

Streetview Southern Sudan

And that we did! We learned. We learned a lot and than again the whole project left me with a little hangover. A hangover called Fundraising and Image. A hangover from dealing with your management in case of small or bigger crisis.

As a grown up organisation we started with the formation of a projectteam that gathered all the disciplines we needed for this job. Than we made a firm and clear briefing to pitch on a few selected partners that allready had earned there name in online marketingconcepting. We picked our partner very carefully and started to develop 3 ideas they had, to find and engage those new donors we were so desperatley looking for.

Interactive bannercampagne with SMS

Interactive bannercampagne with SMS

  1. Streetview Southern Sudan (nominated for a Spin-award and winner of a Webby)
  2. Interactive bannercampagne with SMS (also nominated for a Spin-award)
  3. The first online running event ever (on Hyves, biggest dutch social netwerk)

Next to these 3 test we decided to roll out an email campaign through a network of affiliate partners. Been there, done that, nothing new, but we wanted to see if we could also raise single payments (normally used for monthly payments) and leads in this way to build a base of people we could contact in the future when a disaster is happening.

First online running event ever

First online running event ever

Goal: wich form of fundraising could help us to collect fast single payments in case of an emergency/disaster in the future.

And at this moment in my blog, I know that most of you think: so far so good, curious about the results. Because I know you are! And only a few of you are thinking: what did it cost? Because we all know that an investment is required if you want to find new donors and donations.

What happened?
Along the way a  person got a hold of the fundraising investments that we were making on a part of this campaign. He picked it up, spread it around without the context it should be placed in and there they were: Pownews. For those of you outside of Holland; Pownews broadcastst 5 days a week, about 20 minutes, late in the evening and has about 400.000 people watching them every night. Nothing journalistic about it, as coloured as it can be made to put a person or an organisation with it’s back against the wall. And there we were, confrontated with their pink microphone asking questions about our way of fundraising wich offcourse was completely out off line in their eyes!

What did we do?
We panicked. Invite them in and tell them what we are doing and why? Keep them out so we keep our face of the TV? What would you do? As a fundraiser I think we have nothing to hide. We invest as any other business but with even more care, because of the fact that we are dealing with donation money. We have our rules (from the Central Bureau of Fundraising in Holland) we work by and they tell us exactly how much money we can spend on tracking down new donors/donations. But the outside world does not know that, do they? And we are scared that if they do know they might think differently about us, turn their backs on us maybe? And does our own management know? Will they back us up when the going get’s tough? Does your director stand up with his or her head up high and tell the press that this is the way we operate and that it is perfectly normal? Does he or she feel as proud about the profession of fundraising as we do?

I am very curious about your thoughts on this issue. So please, let me know!

Are we in sales or in begging?
I always thought we fundraisers were in sales. And ok, we could call it a professional form of begging when we are explaining our profession to yet another ignorant person at a party. But we’re joking than right? Because we know exactly what we are doing and we stand for it! At least I do! I am proud of what I do! Why? Because of the proffession I choose and the way I am excecuting it, this world is a better place to live in for us all! And yes I get paid to do it, it is not a voluntary job!

Do we understand each other?
I think we fundraisers do. I think we still have to go a long way with everybody else, starting with our own management. If you have your management in your corner than it is time to go outside. Tell the world what it is all about! Or do we rather keep them in their fairytale where all their donated money goes to help for 100%?

Hanneke Warrink

Been a fundraiser since 1992. Started at the Dutch Heartfoundation and worked there as a fundraiser/data analist for 12 years. Took a break for two years to broaden my horizon. Party catering, HR, catering equipment and so on... Decided to go back to fundraising in 2005 with Cordaid. Expanded Cordaid Kinderstem between 2005 and 2010. Now fundraiser for Cordaid Mensen in Nood.


Emma Ives · May 2, 2011 at 19:48

Hanneke, you have my sympathy! In such situations, where the media has already passed judgment and is not giving you the right to reply, it’s very difficult to think that anything you say or do will make a difference. But you’ve inspired me to put up an article on my blog, see link above, about the perpetual difficulty of spending ‘too much’ money on fundraising and needing to justify it. Do you have any other thoughts to add? It’s something that comes up so often, and I agree with you, I think it’s perfectly justified.

    Hanneke · May 3, 2011 at 16:10

    Hai there Emma, can’t find the blog you refer to. Could you send it one more time?

Marc · May 2, 2011 at 21:30

Ignore the empty heads from Pownews. You know where they are after.
Just be transparent about the costs and benefits and do that in simple words on all of your media channels.

    Hanneke · May 3, 2011 at 16:24

    That’s exactly the thing. By ignoring them I don’t think you’re transparant or at least giving the impression that you don’t want to be. Important: be prepared for negative questions. That is what we learned from it. Be aware of the risks involved when you start up a campaign.

      Marc · May 3, 2011 at 19:30

      You’re right Hanneke but Pownews is only exception I would make. I’m working in the media sector and have some nasty experiences with them. They will kick you as long as needed. They have one goal: to win. Whatever you do.
      Therefore I would choose for my own dignity.
      But for the rest I agree. Negative questions are better than positive q’s. It forces you to think about what you are doing. And it can change own thoughts and behaviours.

Ellen · May 2, 2011 at 21:59

Hanneke, nice blog! Definitely a recurring issue… Reminds me of the often heard opinion that fundraisers and/or CEOs of charities should earn a minimum wage (or better yet, be volunteers) no matter how large the organisation.
My thoughts are that we should be transparent in any case, and that indeed can be explained what we invest, how and why. I do however think that this is not something we should tackle each nonprofit individually, it’s of the image aspects we should address together as a sector!

    Hanneke · May 3, 2011 at 16:26

    Talked about this issue with Jaap Zeekant and also asked him what our possibillities as a sector are to educate people about fundrasing. Who should take the lead in this issue….

Jeroen Beelen · May 3, 2011 at 19:21


I just read your tweet about the #Webby for the Streetview Soedan. That is the positive part for you. Congrats with this.

Also nice to read in the comments that you are not alone. We are all facing the same problems!

Henkjan · May 4, 2011 at 16:10

I’m still curious about the results and the costs of the test… :)

Victoria · April 22, 2019 at 19:58

Anyone compute the true count by dividing the running depend by the variety of units
quit while in the boot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *