We’ll only excel if we evangelise

Published by Georgia Bridgwood on

keep-calm-and-evangelizeA few weeks ago a stranger told me something that made me feel truly sad for an entire afternoon.

I was at a charity marketing seminar. Presentation topics were things like: how to meaningfully calculate lifetime value, how to manage your brand’s reputation using social media, and web design that can heighten the supporter experience.

In usual fashion, feedback forms were passed around at the end. The woman sitting next to me (completely unselfconsciously) said: “There was too much stuff about fundraising for me – I’m in marketing, I don’t need to know about fundraising.”

As the sentiment behind what she said fully sank in, I could feel my mood deflating like a soggy old balloon from yesterday’s party.

“I’m in marketing so I don’t need to know about fundraising.”

Now I know that the lines between fundraising/marketing/communications/brand are drawn differently between teams and roles in every non-profit. But the notion that someone who saw herself as a marketer didn’t think she needed to know ANYTHING about fundraising astounded me.

I’m not a PR or communications guru but I listened to the presentation about reputation and social media with interest, because it shone a light on how my colleagues work – and also sparked ideas on how we could better collaborate, be more joined up.

In my relatively short time as a fundraiser I’ve worked at organisations where marketing/communications was seen as more important, they should have the final say. There was no need for the marketers to attempt to understand fundraising because brand trumps everything. Fundraisers were the petulant child because sometimes we wanted to break away from core brand and tailor work to our different audiences.

I’ve also worked at organisations where marketing/brand and fundraising existed in a culture that supports and encourages the fact that the twain are inextricably linked. A thread of asking for more support (properly) was woven into everything we did.

You can guess which had a clearer sense of vision, and a more agile approach to raising profile & funds in equal measure.

And the buck doesn’t need to stop with marketing either. Operational delivery or support services should all understand their role in communicating need and impact to the people they encounter too. They’re the ones on the front line who have the authority of voice that comes with delivering a charity’s mission.

I know that I’m preaching to the converted here. By engaging with 101 you’ve shown that you want to be a great fundraiser, a driver of change, a rejecter of the parts of status quo that can stop us from truly connecting with our donors.

I’m not the only one to have banged this drum either. Alan Clayton spoke passionately about it at the UK IFC earlier this year. He argued that the most successful non-profits are those where everyone sees themselves as a fundraiser.

My challenge to you is to not just to believe it, but to preach it. Be an evangelist. Help every one of your colleagues understand that they need to know how to sell your organisation’s vision in a meaningful way to anyone they meet. There are easy things you can do; invite yourself to another team’s catch up meeting to share what you’ve been up to. Hold a lunchtime Q&A session. Start a blog on the intranet.

I’m sure we can all think of times in our careers when a colleague (or ourselves!) have been congratulated for unlocking a lucrative new opportunity through a ‘chance’ meeting, email, tweet even. But it’s also about the day to day – about how every communication we have with our supporter persuades, excites and asks everyone to join in.

We’ll only help our organisations go from good to great if we evangelise.

Georgia Bridgwood

Georgia Bridwood is a passionate young fundraiser with a focus on direct marketing. Prior to her current role at Breakthrough Breast Cancer where she runs, among other things, the award winning "TLC" campaign she worked as an Individual Giving Executive at The Prince's Trust. Her first fundraising role was in community fundraising at Action for M.E., a small health charity based in Bristol, where she had previously completed a BA in History. Georgia is motivated by shaping content to inspire and reward donors by connecting them directly with the beneficiary.


Pamela Grow · November 17, 2014 at 15:05


This. This is the purpose of Simple Development Systems, the membership program, and the Basics & More fundraising courses.

Mike Zywina · November 18, 2014 at 11:10

Couldn’t agree more Georgia! And I’ll be sharing this blog immediately.

I’ve worked with and for charities where the idea of a whole-organisation approach to fundraising was alien to the point where advocating it felt like a banging a tired old drum. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I know that fundraisers can typically be a demanding bunch who are usually asking colleagues for info, enforcing deadlines etc but there’s a very good reason for that!

Treating fundraising, marketing and communications as completely separate areas is counter-productive. Even spending a lot of trying to work out where those lines should be drawn is pretty academic.

Lucy · November 18, 2014 at 13:52

I agree – and for a practical ‘how to’ get your whole organisation proud of fundraising – you can download the Proud to be a Fundraiser toolkit from the Institute of Fundraising in the UK here

Rebecca Davis · November 20, 2014 at 03:51

I think this issue is at the heart of the problems identified by the CompassPoint/Haas Fund “Underdeveloped” report – this marketer’s words were a reflection of an absence of a culture of philanthropy at her nonprofit organization which is, in different ways, the same things that many other commenters have said. In organizations with a culture of philanthropy fundraising is embraced and valued by all and is interwoven throughout an organization. One of the things the report highlights is that we (as fundraisers) can’t succeed (or can’t be as successful) where there is no culture of philanthropy — this, as the report emphasizes is what leads to a revolving door of key development professionals. Here’s a link to the study if you haven’t read it or haven’t read it in a while. Such an important issue and good for Georgia to spot it as such! Great post! Cheers!

Fundraising Friday | November 21, 2014 - Pamela Grow · November 21, 2014 at 11:12

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