Fundraisers need to ask themselves why, at least five times each day

Published by Giles Pegram on


It is 22 years since Ken Burnett published the seminal book “Relationship Fundraising”.  Everyone claims to have read it.  Most people now call themselves a relationship fundraiser, yet almost no-one is actually implementing the core ideas in Ken’s book.  Why?

Professor Adrian Sargeant has proved beyond doubt that relationship fundraising increases lifetime value.  Yet few of us could say how much we are spending on retaining donors.  Why?

Fundraisers  spend a fortune on donor acquisition.  We test rigorously.  We know which channels work well, and which work less well.  We analyse our test results with the utmost precision.  But once we recruit donors, they are mainly taken on a single donor journey, which takes little account of the needs of different donors.  Why?

For most of us, the donor journey comprises a series of appeals, interspersed (at best) with non-appeals – newsletters, feedback, thank yous.  And each appeal is measured by its response and average gift.  And we pursue the appeals with the highest response and the highest average gift.  But we don’t take an holistic approach to the experience that the donor has of our charity.  What drives it?  How can we change?  Why?

We know that the silver bullet to lifetime value is donor satisfaction.  But how many of us know what drives donor satisfaction?  Why?  We are obsessed with spreadsheets, analysis and segmentation, yet we are not equally obsessed with how donors think and feel about their relationship with our charity.  Why?

I believe there are two answers to all of these questions ‘Why?’.

First, we don’t actually know what to do.  We know we should be “building relationships” but we don’t actually know what that means in terms of what we should be doing differently day by day.  We don’t come to the office each day thinking about our donors.  We come to the office each day thinking about the results of the last mailing, and our plans for the next.

Secondly, in our organisations the appeals director’s success or otherwise is most likely to be measured by the finance director, based upon the expenditure on fundraising in the year, and the income that that achieves in the year.  Is the ROI, year on year, increasing or decreasing?  This can lead to short-termism; achieving the budget, reviewing the management accounts month by month, and not being obsessed with donor satisfaction.

There are seven key drivers that increase satisfaction, increase commitment, increase loyalty and increase lifetime value.  At the IFC in October, Francesco Ambrogetti, Charlie Hulme and I will be unveiling what those seven key drivers are, talking in detail about what fundraisers today need to do differently, and providing the hard evidence that it will work.  We intend that each participant will leave with 10 things to do tomorrow, and 10 big ideas to think about and discuss within his/her charity.


International Fundraising Congress (IFC)This post is part of the 2014 IFC Series. 101fundraising is proud to be the blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress! Check out HERE when Giles is presenting at the IFC.

Giles Pegram

Giles is vice-chair of the Commission on the Donor Experience, an initiative aimed at transforming fundraising, to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money. He is also a trustee of the Institute of Fundraising.


Karen Osborne · August 26, 2014 at 23:11

Hi Giles, It is great seeing your face and hearing your thinking. I know your session will be awesome.

    Giles Pegram · August 28, 2014 at 22:32

    Hi Karen. Good to hear from you. I’m looking forward to the session. With hindsight, I can see how much we were doing wrong. Now, I’m on a mission ! Best, Giles

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