Want To Raise More Money? Then Stop Asking For It!

Published by Charlie Hulme on


Because the definition of insanity is to repeatedly do the same thing and expect a different result. Up to 40% of new monthly givers in the UK lapse within months of sign up. How much worse does it have to get before we decide to do something about it?! If as a sector we’re serious about calling ourselves ‘relationship’ fundraisers then it’s time to admit we’re in a broken relationship.

So why only one session devoted to loyalty at this year’s IFC? Simple; we chose the content. In our obsession with the ‘new’ ways people can give we’re missing the point of why they’d give in the first place. An old message via a new channel goes stale in no time.

Bill Toliver’s opening plenary made the point brilliantly. When radio was invented we used it to put on the plays we’d watched in the theatre. When the TV came along we used it to watch the shows we’d heard on the radio. And so on. If all we do is all we’ve done then in a few years we’ll be looking at the same donor drop off and wondering what’s wrong with the channel.

How do you mend a broken relationship?

It’d be so much easier to blame them, but the common denominator of my broken relationships is me. Yesterday was ‘Be Your Donor Day’ so let’s use it to look at what we bring to this relationship. What is it based on? What first impression do we make?

It all comes down to whether you are someone who asks or someone who offers. This point was made in two separate sessions by Alan Clayton and Derek Humphries.

If all I do is ask I’ll probably get once, maybe even twice, but how long can anyone sustain a relationship that’s all take and no give? Does that sound like someone you’d want to see again?

Ours is the inspiration business. We should be the ones they come to when they want to invest in their beliefs, their values, their children’s future. Wouldn’t you want to be involved with the person you believed could do that?

Nurturing our relationship

Ok, they’ve given the gift, run the race, ticked the box, ‘Liked’ the page etc. We’d really like to see them again but s/he’s so popular, everyone’s trying to get in there; how can we stand out?

Well if we’ve decided to stop asking and start offering we need to know what s/he wants. Martin Paul’s session ‘Why Do People Stop Giving’ looked at the way the commercial world uses segmentation to better understand their customers with incredible results. If iTunes, Amazon, Nectar and countless others can do it why can’t we?

A one size fits all approach fits no one. If commercials segmented the way we do most would be out of business. To assume everyone who took part in an event want to go on to make a regular gift is like Nike assuming everyone who runs one of their races does so to help them stay brand leaders!

We talk about ‘donor journeys’ all the time, but if we expect people to come with us we have to take them somewhere they want to go (otherwise it’s just donor meanderings).

Commercials track their customer’s purchases, browsing history, and enquiries to get a clear idea of what they want and offer it to them. If we don’t invest in doing the same we’ll become obsolete. After all if we don’t know where our donor is on their journey how can we expect them to?

Keep the passion burning!

Look, they’ve made a second, even a third gift. This is getting serious! Martin Paul presented research he’d done with donors to five Australian charities that showed passion for the cause was the key predictor of retention. Great, but how do we keep the spark going?

People don’t stop giving because they don’t care; they stop because they stop believing we’re the one who can make ‘it’ happen. If we can’t meet their needs someone else will come along and tell them they can. To sustain a relationship passion for the cause needs to turn into belief. Step by step show what you’ve achieved together, and as Alan Clayton said ‘thank extravagantly’. As each achievement opens new doors offer them the chance to get more deeply involved.

Don’t just sell a dream; invite them to make it a reality.


This year 101fundraising is the official blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress (IFC), the world’s leading conference on fundraising. This blog post is part of a special IFC Blog Series, where we gave IFC speakers a chance to share their wisdom before the conference. Attending crowdbloggers will now get a chance to share their views after the conference!


Charlie Hulme

Charlie Hulme

Charlie is MD of Donor Voice. He helps charities uncover what, of all the things they do, cause relationship strength and what is harmful. Partners see a massive improvement in performance, value and retention. Voted top speaker at the Institute of Fundraising's National Convention in 2013, he writes frequently for SOFII, 101 Fundraising, the Institute of Fundraising and many others.

1 Comment

Knock Knock « ifundraiser · November 3, 2012 at 16:26

[…] donation. Something Charlie Hume equolently wrote about in their recent 101 Fundraising blog: Want to raise more money? Then stop asking for it. We need to think what’s their next stage to inspire them? What’s their “donor […]

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