Simple questions drive fundraising success

Published by Derek Humphries on

I’ve had a mountain to climb.

This is not a metaphor. In reality, I had six mountains to climb. In three days. With virtually no sleep.  It started on Friday 3 July. Eventually we climbed eight mountains.  I’m 53. It still hurts. A lot.

Of course, it was a fundraising challenge (really no need for you to give unless you want to feel great).

The lesson I’ve learned in looking at how I got involved in this madcap adventure, is all about the importance of simple, personal questions.

I spend my fundraising life taking complex causes and complex people and finding simple ways to connect them. Fundraising is simple. Organisations make it complicated.

My heroes, the people who inspire me in my life have all asked simple questions.

  • Why can’t I sit in that bit of the bus? Rosa Parkes.
  • Why can’t a woman be an artist? Frida Kahlo.
  • Why can’t people just marry the person they love? My 10-year-old.
  • Why do some kids not have food? My 8-year-old.
  • Why do people kill animals? My 5-year-old.

Simple questions cut to the heart of an issue. They demand answers. And yet both parents and organisations can too often roll their eyes at simple questions, as though such questions betray a lack of guile, a deficit of worldliness.

I did this mountain challenge along with five other philanthropic fools because my eldest daughter said she thought we should build a school for kids who can’t get to school. And I asked myself why not? Answering that question has been an education for her and me. And our team will end up funding 450 kids to go to school rather than building a school.  Ten years old, and she’s already deep in the ‘capital project versus unrestricted funding’ debate!

And I did this challenge because my colleague Peter Muffett (a serial fundraising challenge offender) asked me a simple question: do you want to do a challenge with us? (Of course, at that point he spared me the off-putting details of what was involved!).

mountainclimbersSimplicity works.

And so, a simple task for you. What’s the simple question that your cause seeks to answer?

Once you have that question, then every strategy, every meeting, every policy, every creative proposition, every image must be in some way be an answer to that core simple question.

Find the core question, and everything else follows.

So, what’s your question?

Derek Humphries

@derekhumphries is a Creative Director at DTV Group working on worldwide DRTV campaigns and films, and a consultant Creative Strategist working with the Resource Alliance.


Richard radcliffe · July 9, 2015 at 15:33

Great blog Derek. I recently asked my 6 year old : if you were a vegetable which one would you be? Her answer “Daddy I am a love bean”
God help us in another 6-8 years. But what fascinates be about GOOD questions is the ability to think laterally. And as a you showed us the best questions come from children.
There is probably.a good question about telephone fundraising in the UK but my mind has gone a total blank.

    Derek Humphries · July 9, 2015 at 17:35

    Thanks Richard! I love kids’ questions. A simple question that might help all fundraising (including the training of telephone fundraisers) might be: How would you act if there were a donor in the room?

Isaac · July 15, 2015 at 07:49

This is a good blog Derek

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